A new novel research, conducted by Harvard researchers, has found that young people that eat diets rich in western junk foods are irreversibly wiping off their sperm-making cells and damaging their fertility in a manner that cannot be undone .
The study found that teenagers who favoured high-fat diet and processed foods like snacks, pizzas and chips have irreversible damage to sperm producing cells by the time they reached 18 years of age
Contrariwise, foods rich in fish, chicken, vegetables and fruits help to protect the sperm-producing cells and consequently ensuring a healthy quality of sperm.
It is noteworthy that sperm counts have been declining in recent decades and many studies have fingered diet as a major culprit in its evolution.
Nevertheless, previous studies conducted on declining sperm count focused largely on those trying to have children and older men.
The new study by Harvard researchers is unique in its focus on teen years and has shown that diets of young people in their growing years have significant impact on their ability to father a child in later life.
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The research, conducted among an estimated 3,000 men who were medically examined at the time of starting national service in the Danish armed forces, had on the average study participants at age 19.
Sperm health, measured by concentration, volume and motility was optimal among those following “prudent” diet, then followed by the vegetarian and then by “Smørrebrød” diets, while those who favoured a western diet have the worst sperm health outcomes.
From the questionnaires that participants responded to, four types of diets were studied: a “Western” diet mainly of red meat, processed meat, fatty and sugary food and drink; a “prudent” diet of chiefly chicken, fish, vegetables and fruits; a “Smørrebrød” diet cold processed meat, whole grains, mayonnaise, cold fish, condiments, and dairy; and a usual vegetarian diet comprising plenty of vegetables, soya milk and eggs.
The researchers also found that Sertoli cells – the sperm producing cells – were completely exhausted in young men favouring junk foods, which may mean that the effect of western diet may somewhat be more permanent.
It must be noted that it is possible for sperm count to be increased via dietary modifications, as sperms have a life span of three months and changing diet could mean that sperm production could be restored.
However, the study revealed that those who favoured western diets have low level of the chemical called inhibit-B, which may mean damage to Sertoli cells thus, suggesting that lost of Sertoli cells, the sperm-makers, are forever and irrecoverable.
The study is the largest of its kind to investigate the effects of diets on a cohort of otherwise healthy young men, who perhaps wouldn’t have thought it worthwhile to check their sperm health out.
The study was presented at the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) annual conference in Vienna. The research was led by Jorge Chavarro, an Associate Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology at Harvard.