Attention sperm: Bacon bad, fish good
October 16th, 2013
04:16 PM ET

Attention sperm: Bacon bad, fish good

The quality of a man's semen is directly related to his ability to help conceive a child. But science hasn't found many solutions for men looking for a baby-making boost. Now a study suggests men who are hoping to start families may want to pay attention to what they eat.

A study presented at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine in Boston this week, and published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, suggests that processed meat intake is linked to poorer semen quality, and fish is linked to better semen quality.

Myriam Afeiche, research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health, and her colleagues looked at how types of meat could be associated with semen quality. They took samples from 156 men at the Massachusetts General Hospital Fertility Center in Boston and had the men answer a questionnaire about their eating habits.

What does semen have to look like to be considered high-quality? The researchers considered four main parameters:

The concentration of sperm is one part of it. So is motility, or how fast the sperm move. The shape of the sperm also matters, as does the total sperm count - that's the concentration multiplied by volume.

The researchers did not look at individual kinds of processed meat, so this study won't tell you if bacon could be more sperm-stunting than hamburgers, or vice versa. But higher intake of processed meat appeared to be related to a lower percent of "morphologically normal" - or well-shaped - sperm.

Regarding fish, it seemed that men who ate more dark meat fish - such as salmon, bluefish and tuna - had higher total sperm count; more white meat fish - such as cod and halibut - was associated with normally-shaped sperm.

The researchers only looked at associations, not causes. It is unclear whether processed meat actually causes changes in sperm, or if it does, how that would happen. It's possible men who eat more processed meat have an unhealthier diet overall, which could affect their semen. Same goes for fish intake and sperm; researchers don't know what about fish may benefit the littler swimmers.

"There might be something else going on, but we’re not sure what it is," Afeiche said.

Afeiche and her colleagues found that neither total fat intake, including saturated fat, nor animal fat could explain these connections.

"We have previously found in this same study population that saturated fat was related to lower total sperm count and sperm concentration," she said.

A 2012 study in the American Journal for Nutrition found that, in a sample of 701 Danish men, high intake of saturated fat was associated with low sperm concentration and low total sperm count.

Afeiche's findings seem "quite related to our study," said Tina Kold Jensen, professor of environmental health at University of Southern Denmark, who led the saturated fat study. But Jensen did not have any answers either about what the saturated fat would be doing biologically to diminish sperm quality.

If modifying his diet can help a man boost his semen quality, that would be an easy intervention for many couples who are having trouble conceiving.

But it should also be noted that there's not a linear relationship between semen quality and likelihood of conception, says Afeiche. The two are related, of course, but all it takes is one sperm to conceive.

Afeiche isn't ready to make any dietary recommendations based on her new research. This is only one study, she said, and it was done on a relatively small group of men in Boston.

"I would say that further studies are needed to confirm this," she said.

Researchers will have to recruit a larger group of men from a wider geographic area to make the findings applicable to semen everywhere.

soundoff (332 Responses)
  1. pete

    Well, if there is one thing I value in the world more than having children, it's bacon.

    October 16, 2013 at 16:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Porkgasm

      Why have kids when you can have bacon?

      October 16, 2013 at 17:00 | Report abuse |
    • Jim Gaffigan

      You wanna know how good bacon is? To improve other food, they wrap it in bacon. If it weren't for bacon, we wouldn't even know what a water chestnut is.

      October 17, 2013 at 14:55 | Report abuse |
    • Dr. Miller

      bacon is disgusting and makes you fat and smelly–yuck!

      October 17, 2013 at 15:46 | Report abuse |
    • Booger

      ...AND, you don't have to put bacon thru college!

      October 17, 2013 at 22:48 | Report abuse |
    • Random Jerk

      Bacon, the new birth control available without a prescription.

      October 18, 2013 at 15:37 | Report abuse |
  2. Ricky

    Here is the most important part of the article:

    "Afeiche isn't ready to make any dietary recommendations based on her new research. This is only one study, she said, and it was done on a relatively small group of men in Boston."

    October 16, 2013 at 17:04 | Report abuse | Reply
    • anuradha

      Ha ha ha, agreed, so you are happy with that important part or the article .....

      October 17, 2013 at 22:09 | Report abuse |
  3. Nunyabid

    ...and the next study involves a taste test. =-)

    October 16, 2013 at 17:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Evander

      Dude, I almost passed hot coco out my nose, LOL.

      October 17, 2013 at 12:54 | Report abuse |
    • Doug P.

      I presume you were talking about the bacon and fish? =D

      October 17, 2013 at 14:16 | Report abuse |
    • Dred Scott


      October 17, 2013 at 22:23 | Report abuse |
    • Frank

      bacon flavored......

      Okay for my wife, not for me.

      October 18, 2013 at 14:03 | Report abuse |
    • Fred Evil

      @Frank – Sheer genius, we need to make that happen!!

      October 18, 2013 at 15:52 | Report abuse |
  4. Miss Leading

    Nowhere in the article does it make the claim that bacon is bad for sperm. "Processed meat" (none was singled out) "appeared to be related to "morphologically normal" – or well-shaped – sperm."

    So, that's BAD??

    October 16, 2013 at 17:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • elandauCNN

      Hi, it was actually negatively related. I rewrote that sentence to make it clearer. Thanks!

      Elizabeth Landau, CNN

      October 16, 2013 at 17:37 | Report abuse |
    • CurmudgeonTx

      If the sperm is oddly shaped, call it designer sperm. Get a patent and enjoy life...

      October 20, 2013 at 22:34 | Report abuse |
  5. Marc

    People really need to get a life....and why is this important?

    October 16, 2013 at 17:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ObviousHypocrite

      Are you one of those people that you are talking about?

      October 16, 2013 at 17:42 | Report abuse |
    • Cate

      They're trying to get a life .. hence the need for high sperm count.

      October 17, 2013 at 16:30 | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      Couples are having a hard time conceiving now a days due to, among other things, low sperm count. This is more common than ever before. This is important to bring awareness that consuming processed meat may have negative effect on sperm count.

      October 18, 2013 at 13:01 | Report abuse |
  6. misterflibble1

    So bacon is all natural birth control!!!

    Is that a bad thing?

    October 16, 2013 at 17:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. SixDegrees

    My sperm doesn't care. It really only cares about one thing.

    October 16, 2013 at 17:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jack M

      Yeah, getting out, LOL!

      October 17, 2013 at 15:11 | Report abuse |
  8. Tom

    In general, anything that improves overall health for a man will also improve semen quality. People who eat a few servings of fish per week are on average more health-conscious than those who do not. Fewer of them smoke. Fewer of them are obese. I suspect that while the fish consumption correlates with higher semen quality, the cause is broader.

    October 16, 2013 at 17:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Adam

    Welp... I am not having kids. 🙁

    October 16, 2013 at 18:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. imaplayer

    i don't eat healthy. i don't eat fish at all. in fact never tried one. i smoke. i have 3 baby mommas, 5 kids total. all had dna test done. gotta love bacon! in fact can they invent a condom from a bacon. ouch!

    October 16, 2013 at 18:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • imaplayer

      i meant paternity test.. sheezz too much bacon grease in my brain

      October 16, 2013 at 18:09 | Report abuse |
    • Gray Beard


      October 18, 2013 at 11:51 | Report abuse |
  11. Paul G

    I simply love bacon and have all my life. My wife shares my love of everything bacon and when we were younger, bacon was sometimes a daily part of our diet. That said, I have fathered three healthy children with her, all doing well. Bacon milkshakes anyone?

    October 16, 2013 at 18:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • James T Birk

      Hah! You're assuming they're actually yours....I'd check to see if maybe they bear a striking resemblance to your local fishmonger. 😉

      October 16, 2013 at 18:13 | Report abuse |
    • Dr. Miller

      ..you're dying young and grotesquely fat...with a limp dick to boot. 🙁

      October 17, 2013 at 15:45 | Report abuse |
    • Thatguy371

      Listen to Dr Miller... or any knowledgeable doctor for that matter. Bragging that you're eating like a moe-ronn doesn't impress many.... outside of those who are also moe-ronns with their diet. Once you develop the self discipline to eat correctly, all that junk food will easily lose it's appeal.

      October 20, 2013 at 01:10 | Report abuse |
  12. Demigod Vadik, CA

    Well, it explains why Muslims multiply faster than the rest of the world...

    October 16, 2013 at 18:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Smita

      LOL! low blow!

      October 17, 2013 at 14:17 | Report abuse |
  13. James T Birk

    Time to double-down on the bacon and processed meats!

    /sorry, honey.

    October 16, 2013 at 18:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Portland tony

    Fish with signicant amounts of Mercury are probably not very good for sperm or other parts of the body as long term studies have shown. Whereas a couple pieces of bacon are not going to make you and your kids dumb as these studies have shown. Note: Recent samples of fish like tuna are showing higher than normal concentrations of Mercury in their bodies.

    October 16, 2013 at 21:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Joy

    But vacon is no contraceptive ! 😉

    October 17, 2013 at 04:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. JTMack

    Fish bacon. Problem solved.

    October 17, 2013 at 11:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. humtake

    Awesome news! I'm going to make sure I eat at least 10 lbs of bacon a day so my guys die off and I don't have to worry about that awkward "I missed my period" moment.

    October 17, 2013 at 12:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Norm

    I read where pig genes interfere with normal conception.

    October 17, 2013 at 12:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Peter

    I really don't see a downside to this.

    October 17, 2013 at 12:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. slim

    "Bacon bad for sperm."
    So don't give em bacon.

    October 17, 2013 at 12:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Informative

    This is absurd logic. It is coincidental and shows no cause.

    I have heard that people who drive Ferraris make more than $100k per year; therefore if you want to make $100k you should buy a Ferrari.

    October 17, 2013 at 12:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. leilasmom

    I prefer my bacon with eggs and toast

    October 17, 2013 at 12:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Evander

    I doubt this, I eat about 2 pounds of bacon a week and have 14 kids with my wife of 36 years. Does this mean I could have had 25?

    October 17, 2013 at 12:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • lean6

      Not sure, but it might mean a quadruple bypass somewhere down the line. Geez!

      October 17, 2013 at 16:38 | Report abuse |
  24. kirkbross

    Well... makes sense... fish are better swimmers than pigs...

    October 17, 2013 at 13:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. kirkbross

    Well... fish are better swimmers than pigs...

    October 17, 2013 at 13:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. D-man

    I would also suggest that sperm is bad for bacon.

    October 17, 2013 at 13:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. scottw

    bacon, bacon, bacon it's BACON!

    October 17, 2013 at 13:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. smartaz

    More children means less bacon. More bacon means less children. MMmmm....bacon.

    October 17, 2013 at 14:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. marcusfitness1

    Here we go again, they continue to bash saturated fats. Why do they continue to misinform the populace on nutritional facts?

    October 17, 2013 at 14:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dr. Miller

      ..so you know more than doctors eh? LOL

      October 17, 2013 at 15:43 | Report abuse |
    • Thatguy371

      So, I'm guessing there's nothing quite like the thrill of opening your mouth and saying obviously ignorant things?

      October 20, 2013 at 01:13 | Report abuse |
  30. Smita

    all of u guys are hilarious!

    October 17, 2013 at 14:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Jeff

    No comments on where they found 156 dudes to provide samples?

    I am wondering if her next experiment will be taste and whether salty or sweet sperm are more mobile and how her gag reflex determines volume.

    October 17, 2013 at 14:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Dr. Miller

    Glad this came out–most of us already knew this however. Eating processed red meats is for idiots, fatties and the ignorant. If you're still stuffing your engorged body with this crap–you deserve all the ill health effects–and then some. There's the greasy skin, the fatty rolls hanging off your smelly body and the heinous smell of you. There's the limp dick and the lack of social consciousness. Thank you for posting. 🙂

    Peace to all those who educate themselves and see the light—good luck to the rest.Truly.Blessings. ❦❥❧
    "Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet." ❦❥❧—Albert Einstein

    October 17, 2013 at 15:41 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dr. Sawyer

      You sound like a physician. Compassionate. Caring. One who educates. A true advocate for the vulnerable members of our society. Your patients must adore you and your lovely bedside manner. Your comments exude professionalism, true poise and grace. I'm recommending all of my collegues and residents read your posts and follow your lead. I sincerely mean the exact opposite of everything I just said about you.

      October 17, 2013 at 18:01 | Report abuse |
    • Bacon Man

      Dr. Miller sounds like the kind of Dr. beloved by the most famous of German Vegetarians.....A.H.

      October 17, 2013 at 18:21 | Report abuse |
    • Thatguy371

      Dr Sawyer: Maybe you should look around at the baby blimp epidemic we have in the U.S.? Then maybe you'd understand Dr Miller's 'tough love' approach. Or have you, unlike Dr Miller, never seen the myriad of problems caused by stuffing the heavily processed meats into one's pie-hole?

      October 20, 2013 at 01:16 | Report abuse |
  33. lean6

    So keep piling up the bacon and it will be nature's birth control in more ways than one. 😉

    October 17, 2013 at 16:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. lean6

    I can just picture some confused goober wrapping up his fireman in a bacon raincoat.

    October 17, 2013 at 16:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. NotYoDaddy

    Bacon Birth Control!!


    I'm There!!!

    October 17, 2013 at 16:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Bacon Man

    The linked article looks like a poster abstract to me. Not a peer reviewed paper. There are not enough details to figure out exactly what they did (questionnaire), how they did their statistical analysis or the robustness of their conclusions. "More research is needed indeed."

    October 17, 2013 at 18:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. agentxyz

    Scientists also say that Nicholas Cage 467,000,000 worse for sperm than Kevin Bacon.

    October 17, 2013 at 18:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. O.C. White

    The best way to control over population. Oscar Meyer should jump on this. BTW, would thick slice bacon reduce more sperm?

    October 17, 2013 at 20:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. anuradha

    OK, no argument, but lets look at this way, how much of bacon you have to eat to reduce the quality. How much of fish you have to eat to increase same. Is it every day, once a week or what. That's my question.

    October 17, 2013 at 22:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Dred Scott

    Why am I filled with dread over the continued existence of Salmon, Blue Fin and Tuna???

    October 17, 2013 at 22:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Nicholas Smith

    They need to tell us what the variables did to the taste of the semen.

    October 17, 2013 at 23:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Ron F'ing Swanson

    Bacon is the pinnacle of society. This is obviously anti-bacon propaganda, but we will not be fooled.

    October 18, 2013 at 03:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Mark Peterson

    So eating bacon is the new way of a natural contraceptive ..... I'm all for encouraging that. BACON!!!!

    October 18, 2013 at 07:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. rad666

    "Oh, the horror of it all."

    October 18, 2013 at 08:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. K10

    Now I just want some bacon, thanks CNN.
    And I'll encourage my boyfriend to eat more of it. 🙂

    October 18, 2013 at 10:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Justin

    I eat bacon bacon regularly, and so does my wife. We just had a child in June, first try, and according to our daycare and his pediatrician, he is very advanced, at least more advanced than the norm for his age. This article just makes me want to eat some more bacon. Now I want applewood smoked bacon hamburgers for dinner.

    October 18, 2013 at 11:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Justin

    I keep going back to the article's picture of bacon...

    October 18, 2013 at 11:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. scorho

    The headline is designed, as headlines are, to attract attention, and bacon attracts attention. The article itself points out that there's no evidence that bacon is any worse than other processed meats:

    "The researchers did not look at individual kinds of processed meat, so this study won't tell you if bacon could be more sperm-stunting than hamburgers"

    The headline could just as easily mention chicken mcnuggets, bologna, hot dogs, Lunchables, bratwurst, salami or any other processed meat, but the headline writer knew the article would get more hits and more comments if it mentioned bacon, aka "meat candy."

    October 18, 2013 at 13:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. You're Almost There

    It's as if they want us to eat more bacon. Less kids, happier taste buds, everyone wins.

    October 18, 2013 at 17:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. DowJones

    So, before sex, pass the bacon please?

    October 18, 2013 at 18:12 | Report abuse | Reply
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