diet to improve sperm quality

2019 research so far has shown both the Mediterrranean diet and a higher shellfish intake associated with higher sperm motility in healthy young men, Lycopene supplements improving sperm morphology and motility, n-acetyl-cysteine showing improved sperm quality and DNA fragmentation in infertile men, and obesity affecting sperm quality in men having ICSI with IVF.

essential foods for sperm health

aim for plenty of...

  • lean protein - from poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, low fat dairy, beans

  • fruit and vegetables - organic where reasonable

  • healthy fats - from olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds, oily fish

  • Mediterranean diet which is associated with higher sperm motility (Salas-Huetos et al. 2019) and higher sperm count, motility and morphology (Karayiannis et al. 2017)

and less...

  • saturated fat

  • full fat dairy - the fat in dairy contains female hormones which aren’t great for male fertility, skimmed milk has more testosterone so is better for men

  • processed meats

  • trans fats - check for partially hydrogenated vegetable oil on labels, and avoid deep fried foods

  • sugar

  • alcohol

how food affects sperms count, motility and morphology

sperm count

  • may be reduced by saturated fat (mostly fats that are solid at room temperature) and trans-fats (found in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, baked goods, margarines, and deep fried takeaways) 

  • may improve with antioxidants supplements and coenzyme Q10, and a diet with more fish can be beneficial.

sperm motility

  • may be reduced by eating processed meats, full fat dairy, sweets and sugar sweetened drinks.

  • may improve with higher intake of fruit and vegetables, skimmed milk, fish, chicken, walnuts, beans, antioxidants and coenzyme Q10.

sperm morphology

  • may be reduced by higher intake of full fat dairy foods and processed meats. 

  • may improve with higher intake of omega-3 fats, fish, walnuts, antioxidants and coenzyme Q10.

fruit & vegetables & sperm quality - the benefits

  • higher antioxidant intake associated with improved sperm in healthy university age men, betacarotene was associated with higher progressive motility, and lycopene with higher morphology (Zareba et al. 2013)

  • diet containing high levels of antioxidants was associated with higher sperm motility in young men (Minquez-Alorcan et al. 2012)

  • higher intake of vitamin C, vitamin E, and zinc from diet and supplements was associated with 20% less sperm DNA damage in older men (Schmid et al. 2012)

  • review study looks at the effects of lycopene, an antioxidant found in tomatoes, on reducing DNA damage to sperm and improving sperm counts and viability (Durairajanayagam et al. 2014)

  • organic fruit and vegetables may be preferral - higher pesticide residues were linked to lower sperm counts and reduced morphology in this study (Chiu et al. 2015)

fish, seafood & poultry are good for sperm health - processed meats are not

  • shellfish intake related to higher sperm motility in healthy young men, and organ meat to lower motility (Maldonado-Carceles et al. 2019)

  • high fish intake associated with higher sperm counts and morphology, high intake of processed meats associated with lower sperm morphology (Afeiche et al. 2014)

  • 13% higher fertilisation rate during conventional IVF with men eating the highest levels of poultry, and decreased fertilisation in men eating more processed meat (Xia et al. 2015)

  •  higher sperm motility was associated with higher intake of fruit and vegetable, skimmed milk, poultry and seafood, low sperm motility associated with higher intake of processed meats and sweets (Eslamian et al. 2012)

  • high intake of fish, chicken, fruit, vegetables, legumes and whole grains associated with higher rapidly progressive sperm motility in young men (Gaskins et al. 2012)

healthy fats & sperm quality - the benefits

  • 75g of walnuts (18 whole nuts) daily improved sperm vitality, motility and morphology in healthy young men (Robbins et al. 2012)

  • 60g of mixed nuts daily improved sperm count, motility and morphology in healthy young men (Salas-Huetas et al. 2017)

  • higher intake of omega 3 fats were associated with better sperm morphology, while high intake of saturated fat were associated with lower sperm counts (Attaman et al. 2012)

  • low fat milk associated with higher sperm counts and progressive motility (Afeiche et al. 2014)

saturated fat, full fat dairy, trans-fats & sperm health - the negatives

  • higher saturated fat intake associated with reduced sperm counts in healthy young men (Jensen et al. 2013)

  • higher intake of full fat dairy food associated with reduced sperm morphology and motility in healthy young men (Afeiche et al. 2013)

  • trans-fats levels in sperm are associated with lower sperm count in infertile men, the body doesn't manufacture trans-fats so they can be assumed to come from diet (Chavarro et al. 2010)

  • trans-fats intake related to lower sperm counts in health university age men (Chavarro et al. 2014)

sugar and alcohol effect on sperm quality

does soya affect sperm quality?

  • higher soya intake was linked with lower sperm counts in men attending an infertility clinic - though motility and morphology showed no change (Chavarro et al. 2008)

  • however men going through IVF showed no difference in fertilisation or live birth rates in relation to soya consumption (Minguez-Alarcon et al. 2015)

which supplements should I take to help sperm quality?

For all men who are trying to conceive

  • a good quality multivitamin and mineral - this will help provide the antioxidant and zinc levels needed

If the sperm is less than optimal then you could also take

  • coenzyme Q10 which has been shown to improve sperm counts, motility and morphology

  • n-acetyl-cysteine - new research shows it may be helpful for infertile men

  • lycopene - October 2019 research shows it improves morphology and motility

nutritional supplements to help sperm quality - the research

  • n-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) 600mg daily for 3 months improved count, motility, morphology, DNA fragmentation rates and hormone levels in infertile men (Jannatifar et al. 2019)

  • higher zinc levels are related to better sperm count and morphology (Colagar et al. 2009)

  •  antioxidant supplements

  •  coenzyme Q10

effects of lifestyle and weight on sperm quality

  • obesity affects sperm quality in men having IVF with ICSI (Raad et al. 2109)

  • increased levels of sperm DNA damage in obese men (Du Pont et al. 2013)

  •  increased age, higher BMI, and higher coffee intake associated with decreased sperm quality - but the effects were reversed by increased frequency of ejaculation (Wogatsky et al. 2014)

  • couples undergoing ICSI had 84% lower rate of birth rate when the male partner was obese, compared to men with normal weight (Colaci et al. 2012)

  • inactivity - TV watching - lowers sperm counts in healthy young men (Gaskins et al. 2015)