When couples are having difficulty conceiving, studies show that at least 1/3 of the time, there is a contributing male factor. Yet today the bulk of our tests and treatments are directed toward women. For couples that already know that they are dealing with a sperm problem, there are very few good recommendations on what they can do at home to improve their outcome; until now.
Many studies have found that dietary fats can impact pregnancy outcome [r1] in women. More recent data has even helped differentiate that some fats can improve fertility[r2] . But very little of the nutritional intervention has been directed toward men.
Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) are critical for sperm function and production. These fats are necessary to make healthy sperm as well to optimize their ability to swim. They are called essential fatty acids because you need to consume them in the foods that you eat so that your body can use them to manufacture hormones and other substances. Unfortunately, the typical foods that most of us consume don’t contain them. Instead, many of us eat foods that contain unhealthy fats; a situation that worsens the imbalance between good fats and bad fats.
Now that we know male fertility is improved with PUFA’s, the challenge is getting men to change their diet or take a supplement. Nutritionists have been encouraging men to increase their consumption of fish, flax seed and other foods with healthy oils but only with limited success. Now a group of researchers has found a practical solution[r3] . They had a group of men begin eating 75 grams of walnuts per day. After only 12 weeks they demonstrated an improvement in sperm count, better sperm motility and increased sperm vitality. Better still, they did not experience any increase in body weight or body mass index proving that this recommendation is practical with no identifiable drawbacks. In fact, eating walnuts has also been shown to be heart healthy [r4] and may reduce the risk of prostate problems [r5] as well. So, it’s time for men to “go (Wal)nuts!”
Robert Greene, MD, FACOG
CNY Fertility Center
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