John’s partner Sally has got them eating more fish and shellfish, this suits John especially when Sally brings home oysters or cooks a pot of mussels. He has made an effort to increase his vegetables for lunch and dinner, and he eats three pieces of fruit a day. John eats mostly free-range or organic white meat and they regularly eat wholegrains such as brown rice and quinoa. He drinks a flat white coffee once a day and he has 1-2 beers a week.
Matt eats red meat three or more times a week and enjoys processed meat (his favourite is bacon). He drinks 2-3 lattes a day with full-fat milk and cheese is his go-to snack. He drinks a few beers during the week as well as sharing a bottle of wine once a week with his partner Julie. On a Friday he will have a drink with mates and have 6-8 beers. Matt has a sweet tooth, he adds 1 teaspoon of sugar to his coffees, a coke most days and he eats chocolate most days.
So what does the science tell us?
A 2017 review of 35 selected articles tells us that healthy diets rich in nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids (fish, flaxseed, chia seeds, hemp seeds), some antioxidants (vitamin E, vitamin C, β-carotene, selenium, zinc, cryptoxanthin (rich in papaya and apples) and lycopene (found in tomatoes), other vitamins (vitamin D and folate) and low in saturated fatty acids and trans-fatty acids had a reduced association with low semen quality.1
So the healthier the diet the better the sperm health?
Yes! That’s right. Fish, shellfish and seafood, poultry, cereals, vegetables and fruits, low-fat dairy and skimmed milk were positively associated with sperm quality. 1 See our Diet for Conceiving Well in the Resources section.
Diets associated with low sperm quality
Included diets rich in processed meat, soy foods, potatoes, full-fat dairy and total dairy products, cheese, coffee, alcohol, sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets. These diets were shown to be detrimental to the quality of semen in some studies. 1
The research showed a link between decreased sperm quality and those drinking high intakes of alcohol, caffeine and eating high amounts of red meat and processed meat. These factors all had a negative influence on the chance of pregnancy or fertilisation rates in their partners.
Sorry Matt, John wins!
John through his diet and lifestyle is in a more favourable position than Matt to have better sperm and increased fertility chances.
So whilst further research is needed it seems from that a healthy diet and lifestyle could improve sperm quality and fertility rates.
1.Salas-Huestos A et al. Dietary patterns, foods and nutrients in male fertility parameters and fecundability: a systematic review of observational studies. Hum Repro Unpdate. 2017 Jul 1;23(4):371-389. Doi: 10.1093/humupd/dmx006