Studies & Numbers

A Recent Harvard Study Links the Western Diet to Declining Sperm Count in Healthy Young Men

A recent study published by Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, found the adherence to a high fat, unhealthy Western diet impaired testicular function in healthy young men. While a diet high in fruits and vegetables was associated with positive results.  

The sperm count in Western countries has been declining over the last few decades, and before the study, the risk factors were unknown. Using a small and selective group of 2,935 healthy young Danish men, the study assessed diet, semen quality, reproductive hormones, and lifestyle factors between 2008 and 2017. It found that the decline in sperm count coincides directly with the decline in the quality of diet over the last several decades. 

The “Western” diet was characterized by the intake of pizza, chips, processed and red meats, snacks, refined grains, high-energy drinks, and sweets. The “Prudent” diet was characterized by the intake of animal-based proteins, fish and chicken, vegetables, fruit, and water. The “Smørrebrød” (the Danish word for sandwich) pattern included the intake of cold processed meats, whole grains, mayonnaise, cold fish, condiments, and dairy. And the “Vegetarian” profile was characterized by the consumption of vegetables, soy milk, and eggs. 

The “Western” pattern was associated with the lowest sperm count while adherence to the “Prudent” diet pattern was associated with the highest sperm count, followed by the “Vegetarian” diet. The vegan diet was not studied, but it was found that a diet high in fruits and vegetables produced the most positive results. 

Another recent study published by Harvard University supports the conversion of land currently used for grazing and growing animal feed crops back to forests and plant crops used for human consumption to reduce the effects of climate change.



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