I once had a client who wanted my assurance that looking at diet and lifestyle wasn’t as important for her husband – after all, it is 90% woman 10% man isn’t it …..

No … it’s not.  An embryo is formed when the DNA from the egg and the sperm combine – it is 50:50.

Egg and sperm are cells like any other in the human body, and yet in recent years how they are nourished and looked after is largely ignored when considering they have the most important job of all – continuing the species. The maturing egg, sperm, endometrium and fetus depend upon nutrients for development. If the diet contains too many environmental endocrine-disrupting chemicals, trans-fats, refined sugars, or excess additives, or is depleted of nutrients, then research shows it can significantly affect an individual’s fertility.  Vets and farmers are aware of the benefits of feeding their breeding animals a nutrient rich diet. In fact there has probably been more research done on bull sperm than human sperm!

Studies are now beginning to show how the health of both the sperm and the egg before they even meet can affect the outcome of the pregnancy and the health of the baby, child and even through to adulthood. Some studies are suggesting that even grandparental nutritional status during mid childhood can be linked to the mortality risk ratio in their grandchildren two generations later. One could say that you can help to programme the future health of your children using pre-conceptual nutritional care.

Falling sperm counts and the rise in male infertility has led to an increased interest in the nutritional and environmental factors that influence the development and quality of sperm. Infertility is a multi-factorial condition and poor nutrition, exposure to pollutants and toxins, recreational drugs and medications, plus lifestyle factors and stress all play their part in affecting sperm count, motility and morphology (shape).

A good diet is essential for healthy sperm development, both for what you take out, as much as for what you put in. A great deal of interest is growing in the research of sperm quality and viability, and it is now believed that men with a comparatively low sperm count can still be fertile if the sperm is in good condition. For example research carried out in Milan is showing that eating as little as 7 nuts per day is having a significant effect on the quality of sperm, and contrary to earlier research that caffeine may boost sperm motility, Boston General in Massachusetts is now claiming that too much caffeine may damage sperm at a molecular level.

Sperm is particularly vulnerable to free radical damage known as oxidative stress.  Free radicals are unstable molecules that are linked with cellular destruction and high levels endanger sperm function and viability.  Some causes are poor nutrition, pollutants such as smoking, environmental chemicals  and poor detoxification processes by the body. Burnt, fried and barbequed foods are also sources of free radicals. Damage often results in abnormally formed sperm, and a poor morphology result. Free radicals can also cause sperm to become hyperactive whilst still in the reproductive tract which affects their motility. Antioxidants are molecules that inhibit oxidation thereby protecting  cells from oxidative stress.  Semen normally contains  antioxidants to protect sperm against free radicals and if in some way this natural defence system is impaired, the effect on sperm can be extremely damaging.   Therefore it is essential to both remove potential causes of free radical damage and to eat a diet high in antioxidants.

There have been  many studies on sperm health, quality, count, motility, morphology … after all, it is easy to collect and not an invasive procedure (as it is when studying female fertility).  There are also more sophisticated tests in order to ascertain sperm quality such as the sperm DNA fragmentation test.  These studies help illustrate the effect on certain nutrients on different aspects of sperm health so we are able to use different nutrients to help improve different parameters.

So can you improve sperm quality.  Yes, it is certainly possible and I have seen some very impressive results following supplement regimes and lifestyle changes.

When a couple takes the decision to make a baby, this decision is one that should be made by both the woman and the man …. Therefore responsibility lies with each, it is a responsibility that may have long-term – even generational effects.

And it is 50 : 50.

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