There’s increasing evidence supporting the health benefits of reducing red meat consumption to once or twice a week. Studies have linked red meat consumption to increased risk of heart disease and some cancers. Emerging research is now showing that a man’s diet, including a high intake of processed meat, could affect the health of his sperm.
Researchers in the US looked at 141 men whose female partners were undergoing assisted reproductive treatment. The men filled out dietary questionnaires that assessed the quantity and type of meat consumed.
Increased consumption of processed meat (like sausages and bacon) was related to less successful fertilisation rates during conventional in vitro fertilisation cycles. The total amount of meat eaten was not related to successful fertilisation rates, implying that it was more linked to processed meat consumption. No link was found between processed meat consumption and IVF success rates when using intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). Interestingly, the results showed a higher fertilisation rate in men who had a high poultry intake.
Further research needs to be done to prove a direct effect of processed meat consumption on sperm health. This study does, however, add to evidence that unhealthy eating habits can affect our health in a variety of ways. Good reproductive health requires both partners to engage in healthy behaviours including not smoking, not consuming excessive amounts of alcohol and maintaining a healthy body weight.
For reference: Xia W et al. Men’s meat intake and treatment outcomes among couples undergoing assisted reproduction. Fertility and Sterility Epub online July 20, 2015. doi: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2015.06.037.