When it comes to preconception, fertility and pregnancy, there is a large focus on the mother and her health and nutrition. But what about the father?
Male nutrition has an impact on sperm quality, fertility, pregnancy and even the health of the child after birth. Here’s how.
Diet affects sperm quality
Research has demonstrated that males who follow a healthy diet and lifestyle may have better semen quality than those who don’t (1).
Men who have a higher number of healthy sperm:
- Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables
- Eat plenty of fibre rich foods
- Eat plenty of oily fish such as salmon that is high in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids
- Eat less red meat and processed meats such as salami
- Eat less sugar and sugar sweetened vegetables
- Eat less processed foods high in trans fats and saturated fats (1)
Healthier sperm means that couples are more likely to fall pregnant and have healthier children.
Male factors of infertility, including decreased semen quality are thought to be responsible for around 40% of cases of infertility around the world (2).
Making healthier dietary choices is a simple way to improve sperm health and optimise fertility.
Diet affects the developing baby
So, we have learnt that a healthy diet improves sperm quality. Not only does healthy sperm help to improve chances of conception, but It also affects the way the baby develops both in utero and after being born.
A father’s diet prior to conception can affect the health of his children through epigenetics.
If genetics describes the way the DNA sequences in our genes are passed from generation to the next, epigenetics describes passing on the way the genes are used. Epigenetics looks at factors such as diet, and how diet can switch parts of our genes on or off, having different effects on our health (3).
A systematic review that looked at both maternal and paternal nutrition and its effect on the health of offspring showed that poor dietary choices could increase the risk of complex diseases such as metabolic syndrome in future generations (3).
That is, better nutrition for both mum AND dad prior to conception is important for the future health of their children.
So, what should I eat for fertility?
The Mediterranean Diet is the bee’s knees when it comes to fertility for both men and women.
The Mediterranean diet includes an abundance of different fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains, fish and seafood and healthy fats. It limits alcohol consumption to a moderate level and includes small amounts of red meat and limits saturated and trans fats and processed foods (4).
Research shows that those men that adhered to a healthy Mediterranean style diet had better semen quality, were more likely to achieve conception and they may even make healthier babies and children!
The positive impacts of the Mediterranean diet are thought to be because the diet is high in nutrients, has favourable anti-inflammatory properties and is low in pro-inflammatory nutrients (4).
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1. Salas-Huetos A, Bulló M, Salas-Salvadó J. Dietary patterns, foods and nutrients in male fertility parameters and fecundability: A systematic review of observational studies. Hum Reprod Update. 2017;23(4):371–89.
2. Giahi L, Mohammadmoradi S, Javidan A, Sadeghi MR. Nutritional modifications in male infertility: A systematic review covering 2 decades. Nutr Rev. 2016;74(2):118–30.
3. Dunford AR, Sangster JM. Maternal and paternal periconceptional nutrition as an indicator of offspring metabolic syndrome risk in later life through epigenetic imprinting: A systematic review. Diabetes Metab Syndr Clin Res Rev [Internet]. 2017;11:S655–62. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.dsx.2017.04.021
4. Karayiannis D, Kontogianni MD, Mendorou C, Douka L, Mastrominas M, Yiannakouris N. Association between adherence to the Mediterranean diet and semen quality parameters in male partners of couples attempting fertility. Hum Reprod. 2017;32(1):215–22.