Fertility and the fry up

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Men trying to conceive need to significantly reduce their consumption of all processed meat.

Guys, it may be time to say goodbye to your rashers, sausages and pudding breakfast if you would like to improve your sperm quality and achieve a pregnancy. 

According to a study from Harvard University, the intake of processed meat is associated with lower semen quality in men. Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health showed the link between the consumption of processed meat and male fertility at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine conference.

The research focused on couples undergoing fertility treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital Fertility Centre.  The focus of this study was very specific and measured the sperm's ability to fertilise the egg using the ICSI process. ICSI is a treatment whereby the sperm is injected into the egg. Processed meat was associated with lower sperm concentration and morphology, (Morphology refers to the structure and appearance of the sperm.)  The team found that eating more than one serving of bacon, or other processed meats, related to diminished semen quality. 

The team analysed sperm samples from volunteers and compared them to each participant’s food intake, as reported on a food intake questionnaire. 

Studies have shown that diet can affect human fertility, but our diets are so complex that it is difficult to tease out which particular food types may affect reproductive outcomes.  But this study focused on the type of meat a man consumes which may influence his sperm’s ability to fertilize an egg.

Processed meat is meat that has been mechanically or chemically changed.  Typically, meat that has been cured, salted or has chemically preservatives added to it. Deli meats such as ham, turkey, salami, luncheon meats, rashers, sausages, puddings etc.   Buying fresh meat and home cooking it is not the same thing.

Among this group, those who ate the least amount of processed meats, meaning fewer than 1.5 servings a week, had a 28 percent better chance of fertilising the egg and achieving a pregnancy when compared to men who ate the most processed meats, or more than 4.3 servings a week.

There was no association found between the total amount of meat consumed and ICSI success.  In fact the guys who ate more chicken and didn't eat processed meat produced far healthier sperm.
Processed meats are full of saturated fats, nitrates, sulphites, nitrates and nitrites.  Previous studies conducted by the World Health Organisation looking at the effects of both the high quantity of saturated fats and additives has shown that these foods have a direct association with Cardiovascular Disease CVD and Cancer.  The recommendation is to minimise their intake in the diet. 

Gaye Godkin, Health Nutritionist, , MPH Nutrition (Hons) DipNT cNLP