Are you and your partner currently trying to conceive? While it’s important to understand the role a woman’s fertility plays in trying to get pregnant, it’s just as important to know how a male’s fertility can impact the development of a successful pregnancy too.
So what is the importance of male fertility and how does diet impact male fertility outcomes? In this blog post we’ll be discussing 7 male fertility foods to avoid for couples trying to conceive. All these questions and more are provided below so keep reading on!
What Impacts Male Fertility?
Male fertility helps secure a successful pregnancy while trying to conceive. But, what exactly is involved in a male’s fertility? Similar to women’s fertility, which involves the health of a woman’s uterus and the eggs produced, men’s fertility involves their sperm health.
Healthy sperm is not guaranteed and understanding what alters your sperm health can help you and your partner better prepare for trying to conceive. So now that we know what the main focus is when talking about men’s fertility, let’s jump into some factors that can impact a male’s fertility.
Sperm health is ultimately determined by the quantity and quality of the sperm produced. A successful pregnancy is most likely to develop if the semen discharge in a single ejaculation contains at least 15 million sperm per milliliter. The greater the quantity of sperm per ejaculation, the greater the chance of conception.
Another big factor determining healthy and strong sperm cells is motility. In order for sperm to reach and fertilize a woman’s egg the sperm must move through the woman’s cervix, uterus, and fallopian tubes where the sperm can penetrate the egg. Another factor impacting sperm health includes the structure of the sperm. Healthy sperm typically have oval heads and long tails that aid in their motility.
Now that we know what determines male fertility, let’s get into some of the best ways you can safeguard a man’s fertility.
Best Ways to Safeguard a Male’s Fertility
Some simple behavior modifications and lifestyle choices can help you or your partner produce healthy sperm. Some of these include:
- Maintaining a healthy weight and staying active
- Eating a healthful and balanced diet
- Managing stress
- Getting full nights of restful sleep and,
- Reducing alcohol and caffeine consumption
Now that we’ve covered some factors that impact a male’s fertility, it’s time to jump into 7 male fertility foods to avoid while trying to conceive.
7 Male Fertility Foods to Avoid
1. Processed and Fast Foods
Negative effects on sperm quality and count
If you’ve been following along with our fertility blog posts, I’m sure this one comes as no surprise. Processed meats and fast foods can directly hinder both male and female fertility outcomes. In fact, several studies have found that eating processed red meats directly decreased sperm counts and hindered sperm motility.
Fast foods contain excess fat, sodium, and sugar which can contribute to a chronic rise in blood sugar levels, fat accumulation, and can increase your chance of inflammation. These factors all directly hinder fertility outcomes.
High levels of trans fats and preservative
Excess consumption of trans fats and preservatives have been shown to result in lower sperm concentration and poor sperm quality in young healthy men. High intakes of trans fats and saturated fats accumulate in the testes and induce poorer semen quality as well as lower sperm concentration in ejaculate.
Impact of excessive sodium intake on fertility
Excessive intakes of sodium and sugar have been linked to the development of conditions such as obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and insulin sensitivity. These conditions can bring up unwanted inflammation in the body, which directly hinders both male and female reproductive efforts. High salt intake can lead to decreased spermatogenesis, alterations in testicular morphology and a decline in sperm concentration, viability, and motility.
2. High Mercury Fish
Mercury’s adverse effects on sperm health
Mercury is a naturally occurring metal. Humans tend to obtain mercury by ingesting it through food. Fish take up mercury naturally from the streams and oceans. High mercury exposure has been found to induce sperm DNA damage which alters sperm morphology and motility – producing abnormal sperm.
Specific fish species to avoid or limit consumption
Some fish containing high levels of mercury include shark, swordfish, barramundi, and tuna. You and your partner will want to limit your exposure to these high mercury fish while trying to conceive. Excessive exposure to mercury can pose negative effects on both male and female reproductive efforts.
3. Excessive Alcohol Consumption
Link between alcohol and reduced sperm production
Alcohol consumption in men can cause infertility problems. Long-term heavy alcohol use has been found to reduce sperm production in men. Alcohol is not metabolized well by the body, and when consumed in excess, it can put a strain on your liver. Liver problems tend to increase levels of inflammation which directly impact sperm quality.
Negative impact on sperm motility and morphology
While occasional consumption of alcohol does not seem to have a negative effect on the quality of sperm, daily alcohol consumption deteriorates sperm volume and morphology. If you and your partner are trying to conceive, limit the amount of alcohol consumed while trying to get pregnant.
4. Caffeine and Energy Drinks
Effects of caffeine on sperm count and motility
Some studies indicate that caffeine intake can also impair male reproductivity by causing abnormalities in sperm DNA. Recent studies have shown no link between moderate consumptions of caffeine and male fertility. Coffee consumption is safe in moderation, but you will not want to consume more than 200 mg of caffeine per day while trying to conceive.
Potential impact of energy drinks on fertility
While caffeine in moderation is seemingly fine, too much caffeine can pose a negative impact on male fertility. Excessive caffeine consumption can reduce sperm count and testicular function. Energy drinks include high doses of caffeine alongside excess sugar, which can hinder fertility efforts by decreasing sperm count and reducing testicular function.
5. Artificial Sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners can be found in a wide range of food and beverage options these days. You may not always know that some of your favorite food and beverage products contain artificial sweeteners. With the increased production and use of artificial sweeteners in products, it’s important to know their potential impact on your reproductive health.
Influence on hormonal balance and sperm quality
Research is still needed to fully understand the effect artificial sweeteners have on both male and female reproductivity. Unlike caloric sweeteners, artificial sweeteners do not signal insulin release in response to meals when consumed. Excessive consumption of artificial sweeteners can increase reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the body. ROS can react within the body and contribute to increased inflammation from oxidative stress. Minimizing oxidative stress while trying to conceive is essential in safeguarding fertility outcomes and reproductive health.
Although some ROS are needed for certain reproductive processes, increased ROS alongside decreased antioxidant defenses hinder sperm quality by causing sperm membrane lipid peroxidation, reducing sperm motility, and inducing sperm DNA damage. In other words, it hinders the production and quality of sperm.
Specific sweeteners to be cautious about
Currently there are 6 artificial sweeteners that are approved by the FDA and considered safe for consumption for the general population. These include
- Acesulfame potassium (acesulfame-K)
While trying to conceive, it is best to avoid aspartame and saccharin, as some studies have noted decreased sperm count and sperm quality with excess intakes of these two sweeteners.
6. High Sugar Foods and Beverages
Negative impact on sperm health and quality
As we established earlier, the Western diet is packed full of sugar, fat, and salty foods. Excess sugar intake, especially through sugar-sweetened beverages, has been associated with lower sperm quality and motility amongst even healthy young men.
Effects of insulin resistance on male fertility
Excess sugar intakes both through food and beverage choices can lead to increased risk of insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a metabolic disorder that causes the body to unrecognize insulin signaling – which signals glucose uptake by cells – and can lead to conditions such as diabetes. With insulin resistance the body becomes desensitized to insulin and requires greater amounts in order to efficiently transport glucose into the cells for usage. Reminder! Our cells run on glucose, and this includes our reproductive cells!
Insulin resistance can hinder male fertility by decreasing sperm quality. Insulin resistance also leads to inflammation in the body which can lower the secretion of male sex hormones.
7. Trans Fats and Fried Foods
Trans fats are slowly being etched out of production due to their adverse health effects when consumed. With all the upcoming research, the biggest concern has been on heart health and increasing obesity rates. However, trans fats also impact reproductive health.
Harmful effects on sperm concentration and motility
One study found that the intake of trans fats, especially those derived from fried foods, had a negative impact on total sperm count in young healthy males. Trans fatty acid intake from hydrogenated oils, which are used in the production of fried foods, resulted in significant reproductive damage by altering sperm count, motility, and morphology.
Role of trans fats in inflammation and oxidative stress
Trans fatty acid consumption can impair insulin-mediated nitric oxide signaling pathways which can lead to inflammation. A buildup of systemic inflammation and endothelial dysfunction may be involved in the development of a range of health conditions.
Trans fats are considered pro-inflammatory due to the way they are absorbed and utilized by the body, inhibiting other pathways and processes that aid in reducing inflammation. A buildup of inflammation in the body can lead to oxidative stress and can lead to other worsening conditions including insulin resistance, dyslipidemia, diabetes, and heart disease. All of these conditions have adverse effects on reproductive outcomes.
Conclusion: Male Fertility Foods to Avoid
In this blog post we’ve covered what impacts male fertility, some of the best ways to safeguard male fertility, and shared 7 male fertility foods to avoid while trying to conceive. Again, the 7 fertility foods you or your partner will want to avoid while trying to conceive include:
- Processed and fast foods
- High mercury fish
- Excessive alcohol
- Caffeine and energy drinks
- Artificial sweeteners
- High sugar foods and beverages
- Trans fats and fried foods
It’s important when trying to conceive to plan ahead! It can take up to 3 months of implementing healthy dietary and lifestyle changes to improve your reproductive health. While we have lots of blog posts covering women’s fertility, we’re excited to shine some light on the importance of adopting a healthy diet for improving male fertility as well.
The fertility journey and conception process is unique to every couple. If you and your partner have been trying to conceive for some time and are struggling, it’s important to consult a healthcare professional or nutritionist for personalized advice and care. These professionals are equipped with the knowledge, tools, and skills to help you navigate your personal journey to conception.