Since there are lots of women following Slim & Save with the aim to lose weight to conceive, we thought we’d do a post covering men’s fertility. Hopefully this will not only help you ladies out there trying to conceive to pass on to your partners, but might also be useful for any men following a Slim & Save plan hoping to conceive now or in the future.
It’s not just age and genetics that impacts on men’s fertility. Studies have shown that over the last 50 years or so, sperm count has dropped significantly. This suggests that other factors are at play, like lifestyle factors (such as diet, exercise, sleep and stress) and environmental factors (such as the use of pesticides to grow our food). Today’s article aims to share a few tips on how you can improve your fertility. There are other factors to consider (such as staying cool and other lifestyle factors), but this article will touch on the nutrition and exercise factors.
- Eat a healthy balanced diet – it may sound cliché, but this is definitely the way to go. In particular, studies have shown that men who eat a Mediterranean style diet have a better sperm count and lower rates of infertility. A Mediterranean diet consists of plenty of fruits and vegetables, wholegrains (including wholegrain bread and cereals like oats), nuts, seeds and pulses (like lentils and beans). In terms of protein-rich foods, choosing more seafood and in particular oily fish like salmon, fresh tuna, mackerel and pilchards, in place of meats high in saturated fat is the way to go.
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables – you’ve heard about the message to eat ‘5 a day’ – well this is really the minimum you should be aiming for. More is better! There is lots of research to show that eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is important for improving sperm quality. They contain a variety of different vitamins and phytochemicals – many of which are ‘antioxidants’ and have a protective role in the formation of new sperm (spermatogenesis).
- Eat plenty of nuts and seeds – these foods are rich in vitamins (such as B vitamins), minerals (including iron, zinc and selenium) and healthy fats, including omega-3 fatty acids. Some research suggests that including nuts daily in your diet may improve sperm quality (vitality, motility and shape). Nuts and seeds are also excellent sources of selenium and zinc, which are both important for sperm production. Selenium deficiency has been linked to low sperm count, poor sperm motility and abnormalities in sperm shape. Zinc deficiency can also lessen the production of sperm and cause sperm abnormalities.
- Regular physical activity (exercise) – the NHS recommends that all adults should do at least 30 minutes of exercise five times a week. One study followed 261 healthy men without any fertility problems that they were aware of, and allocated them into four programmes (one of them being no exercise, and the other three different levels / types of exercise). They found that doing at least half an hour of exercise three times a week (on a treadmill) may boost men’s sperm count. The boost was only temporary and started to wane when they stopped exercising, so this shows the importance of continuing with regular exercise. However it’s important to strike a balance, since studies have also shown that taking part in competitive sports, like cycling, can actually lower sperm count. If you have any concerns about starting to exercise, be sure to check in with your GP first.
- Maintaining (or achieving) a healthy weight – There is a lot of research to suggest that being obese can negatively impact on fertility. It is thought that obesity can lead to hormonal imbalances, which may in turn lead to a disruption in the production of healthy sperm. If you are overweight or obese, you may wish to take some time to consider the best weight loss approach for you, to help you lose weight and keep it off in the long term. There are many options available to you, including cutting down on unhealthy foods (including foods high in fat and sugar), reducing alcohol consumption, reducing portion sizes and increasing your physical activity (exercise) levels. You could also talk to your Doctor about your suitability to try a Slim & Save programme.
We hope this article gives couples more information when planning a family and note that being at a healthy weight once you have your family can only be a bonus with the hard, but thoroughly rewarding work that will surely follow.
Written by Annemarie Aburrow RD BSc (Hons) PGDip, Slim & Save Dietitian.
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