The results of a small study from a team of Spanish researchers is suggesting that adding a moderate volume of nuts to a diet could improve both sperm count and motility. The study follows on from a growing body of research finding male fertility rates are dropping in Western countries.
Presented this week at the annual conference for the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) in Barcelona, the study followed 119 healthy male subjects for 14-weeks. The men were randomized into two groups, one continuing on their usual western-style diet with no nuts, and the other group supplementing that normal diet with 60 grams a day of an almond/hazelnut/walnut mix.
After 14 weeks the men supplementing their diets with nuts were found to display 16 percent better sperm counts and 6 percent better sperm motility when compared to the control group. Although these numbers are not especially high, the researchers added that the subjects consuming nuts showed significant reductions in sperm DNA fragmentation. This parameter is suggested as something that is often associated with male infertility.
The study at this stage is not peer reviewed or officially published, so it is unclear whether the trial can be considered rigorous enough to justify any reasonable conclusion. Allan Pacey, a male reproductive specialist from the University of Sheffield, points out that while it is unsurprising that nuts are somewhat associated with better sperm quality there are many stronger studies that verify holistically healthy diets positively influence sperm quality.
Pacey also suggests that the criteria used to evaluate sperm in this study does not simply mean eating nuts will increase a couple's chance of conception. "… people need to be aware that there is quite a big difference between improvements in semen quality measured by WHO methods (or DNA damage) and improving the probability of pregnancy in the partners of men eating nuts," says Pacey. "Surely, the latter is what we are most interested in?"
Closer inspection of the abstract presented at the conference does reveal a significant lack of clarity in several aspects of the trial. For example, it is unclear what the subjects' regular "western-style diet" actually consisted of. Surely a more rigorous control of the participants' diet would be needed to come to any clear conclusion in research such as this.
A moderate amount of nuts in a healthy diet has been shown to infer a variety of beneficial effects. Perhaps the only real take away from this research is that a healthy Mediterranean-diet is the best approach for anyone wanting to maximize the health of their sperm, or just their general well-being.
The research was presented at the recent annual conference for the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) in Barcelona.
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