Quickly declining sperm count in the Western world: result of poor diet?

New studies have investigated nutritional value in one’s diet as a possible explanation for sperm count, showing an association between an unhealthy diet and a decreased count.

sperm 88 (photo credit: )
sperm 88
(photo credit: )
Sperm counts in the Western world are decreasing - and fast.
Between 1973 and 2011, the total sperm count in North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand dropped by close to 60%, and new research suggests that this pattern is continuing, according to an article published by CNN.
Studies have also shown that testosterone levels, one of the hormones needed to build muscle, build bone mass, and increase sex drive in men, is also declining.
While there is much debate over the cause of this decline, radiation, pollution, chemicals, smoking, alcohol consumption, and obesity have all been pointed to as potential sources of this decline.
Additionally, a study published in JAMA Urology on Friday points to the nutritional value in one’s diet as a possible explanation for sperm count.
Feiby Nassan, a research fellow at Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health, conducted a large-scale study to investigate diet patterns and their relationship with testicular health.
The study followed 2935 Danish men undergoing a physical examination to determine their fitness for military service, all of whom were of normal weight and had a median age of 19.
The men each completed a questionnaire asking them how often they ate 136 specific food items in the last three months to categorize them into one of four categories. The first category, “prudent,” was the healthiest category, with a diet consisting of mostly fish, chicken, vegetables, fruit, and water. The second category, the “open-sandwich pattern,” is a typical Danish diet, consisting of cold processed meats, whole-grain breads, cold fish, mayonnaise, and dairy. The third category was a vegetarian-like diet consisting mostly of vegetables, soy, milk, and eggs. The final category, “Western,” was the most unhealthy, with a diet consisting of pizza, snacks, sugar, french fries, processed snacks, red meat, and highly processed grains.
Blood and semen samples were taken from all the men. According to these samples, the highest sperm counts were associated with the “prudent” category, next with the vegetarian-like diet, then the “open-sandwich pattern,” with the lowest sperm counts associated with the “Western” pattern.
"The median sperm count of men who had the highest adherence to the 'prudent' pattern was 68 million higher than men who had the highest adherence to the 'Western' pattern," said Nassan.
So, it’s possible that a diet high in processed food could have an effect on decreasing sperm counts.
"Changing diet pattern[s] may be a simple and inexpensive change" to protect a man's testicular function, Nassan explained.
Decreasing sperm counts are not only important for reproduction. Nassan explained that research suggests that fertility is also related to life expectancy and overall male health. Thus, the decreasing sperm count in Western men could cause far greater concerns than fertility problems.