Nutrition

Study says typical Western diet’s poor nutritional quality kills sperm count and lowers testosterone levels in men

sperm count

The sperm in Western nations can be likened to endangered animals where science might worry that it’s heading toward extinction.

In 38 years between 1973 and 2011, total sperm count in New Zealand, Australia, Europe, and North America decreased by up to 60 percent, the research found. The statistic is an acceleration of a trend that started in the 1940s. The trend is continuing according to more recent studies.

At the same time, studies show a simultaneous drop in testosterone levels, the hormone required to build a man’s muscle and bone mass, and also needed to boost sex drive.

Why do these things continue to happen?

No one knows. Debate rages about the role of air pollution, radiation, and chemicals in our food, water, and clothes. Obesity, alcohol consumption, and smoking likely all play a part.

So could the typical Western diet’s lower nutritional quality, according to a new study in JAMA Urology.

Study author Feiby Nassan, Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s research fellow, said this study is the largest one to date to examine the diet pattern with the testicular function of men.

The result of the study shows that, on average, Westernized diet of processed foods, sweets, snacks, pizza in men produced approximately 68 million fewer sperm upon ejaculation than those who ate a healthier, balanced diet.

If a man has fewer than 39 million sperm per ejaculation or less than 15 million sperm per litter, he is considered having low sperm count. A low sperm count can make it difficult for a man to get a partner pregnant and can be a crucial marker for men’s overall health.

Nassan said that fertility isn’t just vital in making babies but also related to a man’s life expectancy and general health.

A big difference

The study looked at 2,935 Danish men with a median age of 19 and of average weight. The participants were undergoing physical to measure their fitness for military service – something all men in their country have to do after turning 18.

The men were taken blood and semen samples and completed a questionnaire asking them how often they had eaten 136 food items in the past three months.

The study examined four food patterns:

  • The “prudent,” healthy pattern, in which fruit, vegetables, fish, chicken, and water were mostly consumed.
  • The “open-sandwich pattern,” a more typical Danish diet with higher consumption of cold, whole-grain pieces of bread, processed meats, mayonnaise, cold fish, dairy, and condiments.
  • The “vegetarian-like pattern,” in which vegetables, soy milk, and eggs were highly consumed with little to no red meat or chicken.
  • The “unhealthy” Western pattern, with more sweets, sugar-sweetened drinks, pizza, snacks, french fries, red meat, and processed grains.

Men who were on the prudent pattern of eating got the highest sperm counts. In the second place were men who closely followed the semi-vegetarian and then followed by the Danish eating style.

Nassan said that men who closely followed the ‘prudent’ pattern had a median sperm count of 68 million higher than who closely followed the ‘Western’ pattern with 95 percent confidence intervals of 43 and 93.

Additionally, the median sperm count of men who strictly followed the vegetarian-like pattern was almost 33 million higher than those who ate the less nutritious Western diet.

Non-participant of the study Charles Lindemann, a researcher and professor emeritus at Michigan’s Oakland University, commented on the study’s preliminary results last year, saying that the study’s findings could be a vital clue if it holds up to scrutiny. He noted that a diet high in processed foods could be the culprit of a continuing decrease in sperm counts over the recent past.

Nassan said her findings show consuming fruits, vegetables, whole grains, poultry, nuts, and seafood provides the body the antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for proper sperm production.

According to Nassan, protecting a man’s testicular function may only need changing simple and inexpensive diet pattern.

“I believe that it is not only ‘you are what you eat,’ but it is also ‘your sperm is what you eat,” Nassan said.

Boost Your Gut Health and Prevent Heart Disease With This Afternoon Snack

benefits of walnuts

Are you looking for a snack between mealtimes or postworkout? You are not alone, as it is something we all do. Sometimes the only available snacks you can get are those you can find at the gas station or something packaged and tasty from the vending machine. However, everything we eat can positively affect our gut health and risk of heart disease. It is in utmost importance that we be more strategic about our snacking.

Journal of Nutrition published new research that says swapping out your sweet or salty afternoon pick-me-up for walnuts can have some significant heart health benefits.

Researchers looked at 42 overweight or obese participants who were between the ages of 30 and 65. Prior to the start of the study, everyone was placed on an average American diet (where 12 percent of daily calories came from saturated fat) for 2 weeks. They then switched to a lower saturated fat diet (where 7 percent of daily calories came from saturated fat) and incorporated walnuts. In place of snacks like crackers or chips, all participants were munching on two handfuls of walnuts daily for 6 weeks. Researchers saw lower cholesterol levels and gut bacteria that lower their risk of heart disease. It is important to note that one ounce of walnuts is about one handful.

nutritional snack

According to study authors, the result is likely due to eating whole walnuts daily, which lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels. While the researchers noted that this study showed correlation and not causation, previous research also found adding walnuts to a diet of a person can help lower blood pressure, especially when they’re replacing high saturated fat foods.

So, how gut health affects the risk of heart disease? It may be partly because walnuts contain fiber, which can favorably affect gut bacteria. Furthermore, the omega-3s and unsaturated fats in walnut can positively contribute to gut microbiomes, which may help in lowering blood pressure, resulting in a lower risk for heart disease, according to the study authors.

Study authors said that swapping out unhealthy snacks for a servicing of walnuts or other nuts will have significant health benefits and is more natural than doing a radical exercise or diet overhaul.

healthy heart

The study authors explained that it’s not just people at risk for heart disease as nuts are recommended in several heart-healthy diets, including the Mediterranean diet. It’s an excellent method to encourage healthy people to stay healthy, the study said.

In full disclosure, The California Walnut Commission supported this one study. However, there has been much independent research on all the heart-healthy components of nuts, such as fiber, unsaturated fats, omega-3s. Previous research published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that adding nuts to your diet can help prevent the risk of chronic disease and promotes healthy aging. Study authors explained that blood pressure and cholesterol levels increase as you age even if you are fit in your20s or 30s, which is one of the reasons eating a heart-healthy diet is essential regardless of your age or activity level.

The bottom line: choosing nuts in your snacks is something you can do now to maintain health, rather than waiting until later in life. Researchers pointed out that while they looked at walnuts specifically, adding a variety of nuts can help you keep up this healthy diet habit to prevent from being bored of eating just walnuts. Study authors said that it is much harder to reverse disease once it comes about, so prevention is key.