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What You Incorprate Into Your Diet May Affect Fertility

Posted By: Dr. Gary Bellman on December 8, 2013

What you eat may have an impact on the quality of your sperm; so it makes sense that your food choices could play a significant part in your ability to conceive.  A balanced diet as part of a healthy lifestyle may be one of the factors that helps the condition of a man’s sperm.


Omega-3 Fats: Men with higher intake of omega-3 fats tend to have healthier sperm.  For instance, switching red meat for a high omega-3 fish like salmon, is a great start.  The omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA-- found in fish, may raise dopamine levels in the brain that trigger arousal.  Salmon, mackerel, sardines, and tuna are noted as some of the best sources of omega-3.
 
Antioxidants: Sperm are sensitive to oxidative damage.  In fact, oxidative stress may account for up to 80% of male subfertility.  Multiple studies have shown that increasing your intake of antioxidants can improve sperm quality and help couples get pregnant.  Fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and other whole foods provide a broad spectrum of antioxidant nutrition—and loading up on these healthy foods will also help you maintain a healthy body weight.
 
Folate: Women who are pregnant and trying to become pregnant are usually advised to take a folic acid supplement.  Not only does folic acid protect against serious neural tube defects in the developing fetus but it seems to enhance your chance of getting pregnant in the first place; the same appears to be true for men: Higher folate intakes are correlated to better sperm quality. Natural food sources of folate are spinach and other dark leafy greens.

Zinc and selenium: Both zinc and selenium may play an important role in conceiving.  Low levels of zinc and selenium have been linked to poor sperm quality and a reduction in the sperm's ability to move.  Selenium supplements may improve the quality of your sperm and increase a women’s chance of pregnancy, but experts are unsure about how much the dose should be.  Food sources of zinc include extra-lean minced beef, beans and dark chicken meat; selenium can be found in brazil nuts, bread, fish, and eggs.

Vitamin D: A few studies have shown a possible link between vitamin D levels and how mobile your sperm is.  The study showed that men who were deficient in vitamin D had less mobile sperm; more research is needed to establish substantial evidence.

Our bodies make vitamin D in response to sunlight.  We also get it through eating foods containing vitamin D. Oily fish, and foods fortified with vitamin D such as breakfast cereals.
 
 
What about my weight?
Maintaining a healthy weight is essential for keeping your sperm in good condition. You can do this by having a healthy, balanced diet and exercising regularly.

Being overweight can affect your ability to conceive a child and can influence the quality of your sperm.  This effect is greatest in men who have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher, but a BMI of over 25 can also result in a higher risk of poor sperm.


Should I cut down on caffeine?
It's fine to keep drinking coffee (within reason).  There's no strong evidence that caffeine can harm your fertility as a dad-to-be unless you also smoke.  Caffeine may even improve sperm motility.  Studies of fertile and infertile men showed those who drank caffeine regularly had significantly higher sperm motility than those who didn't.

What about alcohol?
It's best to cut back on alcohol if you drink regularly, if you want to improve your baby-making chances. There is no evidence to suggest that moderate drinking (up to three to four units of alcohol per day) will affect your fertility.  Experts agree that drinking excessively will impair the quality of your sperm

Heavy consumption of alcohol affects your hormone levels, in particular your testosterone levels. It also affects the ability of your testes to mature the sperm properly. This leads to poor semen quality but the effect is reversible, so if you cut down on alcohol over several months your semen quality could improve.

 
Although different nutrients are involved with male and female fertility, the good news is that one dietary prescription can cover all the bases.  For both men and women, the dietary pattern that is most consistent with all the research on fertility is the Mediterranean diet.  In one study, couples undergoing fertility treatment who both stuck to a Mediterranean diet improved their chances of getting pregnant by about 40%.
 
A Mediterranean diet pattern is characterized by a high intake of vegetables, nuts, legumes, olive oil, fish, whole grains, and a low intake of meat, refined grains, and other processed foods.  In addition to enhancing your fertility, a Mediterranean diet is also associated with lower risks of heart disease, dementia, and obesity. Sounds like a great way to start and keep healthy!
 

For an appointment or consultation with Dr. Gary Bellman, please contact the office or call 818-912-1899



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