As a nutritionist in the fertility world, I have heard many times, “My partner has been told that he passed his sperm test with flying colors. It must be my fault we are not pregnant.” To this statement I respond, “Stop. Rewind!” Fertility treatment, like many popular sports, is a team effort or partnership that involves "ongoing close cooperation between parties having specified and joint rights and responsibilities" (definition from the Merriam-Webster dictionary). So, it's important that men and women remember that sperm play a vital and significant role in pregnancy success and that male responsibility and participation never ends.
In fact, male responsibility actually starts months BEFORE conception and continues throughout pregnancy. Did you know that it takes 3 months for sperm to fully mature? That’s right - 3 months! A semen analysis test is informative and important to the fertility evaluation process, but it is also one sample in time. Sperm count, form, structure, DNA synthesis, and motility can be affected negatively or positively with lifestyle behaviors that affect dietary choices, body composition, hormonal and nutritional balance. Environmental factors such as the presence of pesticides, phthalates, nicotine, caffeine, marijuana, mercury, and over the counter supplements can have negative effects on sperm quality and pregnancy success.
Now, let’s talk steak and potatoes! Did you know...?
Frequent red meat consumption may not support fertility as well as a greater consumption of organic poultry, low mercury fish, and a Mediterranean style diet.
Processed meat intake (deli, sausage, bacon) is associated with lower total sperm count and lower percentage of morphologically normal sperm.
IVF Research Data
Poultry intake among men revealed 13% higher fertilization rate in IVF study. Processed meat intake was also associated with lower fertilization rates in conventional IVF, but not with IVF and ICSI.
Meats are a source of saturated fats
Saturated fat intake is associated with lower sperm counts.
Meats may contain environmental chemicals that will negatively affect spermatogenesis.
Choose organic meats that are void of added synthetic hormones, pesticides, and antibiotics.
Pesticides have been associated with lower sperm count and lower normal morphology percentage.
Avoid consumption of game meats. These meats are a risk for toxoplasmosis bacteria and higher lead consumption.
Overall, western dietary patterns that include frequent intake of red meat, processed meats, butter, coconut oil, high fat dairy, pizza, high energy drinks, sweets, alcohol and refined grains has been associated with risk for low sperm motility, low sperm count, and lower normal morphology.
Throughout the month of June, I will address several nutrition and lifestyle topics as they pertain to male fertility, especially because research data is highlighting that dietary intake, body composition, lifestyle behaviors and environment do influence semen quality. Stay tuned!
Have questions? Looking for more information? Schedule an appointment with Carolyn Gundell today by calling your RMACT Patient Navigator.
Carolyn Gundell, M.S., leads RMACT’s Fertility Nutrition Program, a service available to all patients. Carolyn has a great passion for nutrition and its link to fertility, which she shares with her patients to empower them with food and lifestyle behaviors that optimize their health for conception, successful fertility treatment, and healthy pregnancy.