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. bence

    They don' know. When I was a boy these old men butchered hogs the family's were 14, 16, 19 children. Some died at birth might have been the bacon but I doubt it. Might have been because we didn't have hospitals or doctors. Eat what you want you only here on a visit.

    October 18, 2013 at 19:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Thatguy371

      Sure, why not. Wouldn't wanna actually LEARN anything throughout your life now would you?

      October 20, 2013 at 01:01 | Report abuse |
    • Shadow

      I was thinking the same thing with all the big farm families I've known in my life.
      As for Thatguy371
      "Sure, why not. Wouldn't wanna actually LEARN anything throughout your life now would you?"
      You wouldn't learn much from this anyi-bacon article as it isn't accurate and..new studies have shown that too much fish can be toxic, due to the mercury in fish, along with causing cancer to your prostate, due to the oil. I just love it when the seeming scholars come on here and push for something that they haven't researched themself.

      October 21, 2013 at 08:31 | Report abuse |
    • Schmedley

      I would say "learning something" from these health studies is a stretch. First eggs were bad for you, now they're not so bad. Grains were the base of the food pyramid, now carbs are considered bad. Coffee is good for you. Coffee is bad for you. Alcohol is bad for you but wine is good... blah blah blah.

      They don't know. Probably the only thing they've really figured out is that smoking is bad for you.

      So, Thatguy371 perhaps you need to learn that what you read on the internet ain't necessarily true.

      October 21, 2013 at 13:14 | Report abuse |
  2. Mike

    Well, fish is not super expensive but can be pricey, so obviously those who buy fish such as myself have a far higher socioeconomic status than those who do not. So it is probably based on diet which affects overall health. But, this does not mean that if you eat bacon you will be infertile, moderation folks, it is a wonderful thing.

    October 18, 2013 at 19:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • J R Brown

      Apparently you haven't seen all the people fishing around ponds, lakes and rivers all over the world....?

      October 18, 2013 at 20:46 | Report abuse |
  3. Mike

    Well I'm screwed! I have ingested a hefty amount of bacon in my life....

    October 18, 2013 at 21:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lee Stu

      NO Babies for you!

      October 19, 2013 at 21:19 | Report abuse |
  4. patriciaange

    Reblogged this on Sex and Relationships.

    October 19, 2013 at 06:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Adam

    Like most nutritional studies, this one is baloney. That is to say, it's unlikely to take seed with the scientific community. Second pun not intended.

    October 19, 2013 at 10:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Meh

    Darn. No more having sex with bacon then...

    October 19, 2013 at 13:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. The only good sperm is a dead sperm.

    Sex is bad for sperm, millions of sperm die each time.

    Abstinence is good for sperm, none die.

    The choice is yours.

    October 19, 2013 at 17:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lee Stu

      sperm do die of boredom

      October 19, 2013 at 21:16 | Report abuse |
  8. capnmike

    The earth is grossly overpopulated. Eat Bacon! Also saves you from changing filthy diapers and child support payments.

    October 19, 2013 at 17:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Lee Stu

    so what do you do for work? I count sperm and volume and mobility , OK see ya later

    October 19, 2013 at 21:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Lee Stu

    explains why CHINA bought Smithfield

    October 19, 2013 at 21:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Lee Stu

    and yet PIGS seem to have NO problems

    October 19, 2013 at 21:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Thatguy371

      Since when did live pigs become heavily processed meat?

      October 20, 2013 at 01:03 | Report abuse |
  12. Prolific Father

    I eat over 2 lbs of bacon a day and have 14 children by three wives.

    October 19, 2013 at 23:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. BS Detector

    The world is suffering from extreme overpopulation. Men should eat more bacon.

    October 20, 2013 at 00:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • CurmudgeonTx

      Mmmmm *drools* Bacon...

      I have raised my kids...Time to hitch up to the pork wagon!

      October 20, 2013 at 22:29 | Report abuse |
  14. Uncommon Sense

    Well that's just great. First they told me the vasectomy would be bad for my sperm count; now this. You just can't win.

    October 20, 2013 at 08:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Allah

    I told you so

    October 20, 2013 at 09:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. ___

    Who wants to taste test my glorious, healthy sperm?

    October 20, 2013 at 12:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • John Boehner

      I will

      October 20, 2013 at 12:29 | Report abuse |
  17. *sigh*

    In other words, food stamps/EBT should only be able to buy bacon.

    October 20, 2013 at 21:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • CurmudgeonTx

      Bacon, wieners, sausage, spam, potted meat, beef jerky and anything fried...That's what's for dinner.

      October 20, 2013 at 22:31 | Report abuse |
  18. That's just crazy talk

    Think I'll have some bacon in the morning

    October 21, 2013 at 00:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Rojo

    So what will the sperm eat with their egg?

    October 21, 2013 at 02:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. hrdwrknjoe

    Bacon? What is bad for sperm is that box of kleenex and lotion beside any teenage boys bed.

    October 21, 2013 at 11:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. John Donn

    So you have a better chance of reproducing if you prefer fish to sausage...

    October 21, 2013 at 14:04 | Report abuse | Reply
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    I get paid over $87 per hour working from home with 2 kids at home. I never thought I'd be able to do it but my best friend earns over 10k a month doing this and she convinced me to try. The potential with this is endless. Heres what I've been doing, Dow12DotCom

    October 21, 2013 at 15:31 | Report abuse | Reply
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