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Saturated Fats Can Harm Sperm Quality by Almost 50 Percent

Saturated and monounsaturated fats aren’t just implicated in heart disease and cancer but now are linked to a potentially damaging effect on men’s sperm

AnnA Rushton

Harvard Medical School has been doing research on 91 men undergoing treatment at the Massachusetts General Hospital Fertility Center in Boston.   They were able to demonstrate that men who took in higher amounts of fats, including saturated fat and monounsaturated fat such as found in bacon, sausages, ham, cheese, butter, and olive oil had a decreased sperm concentration, quality and mobility.

Breaking it down: the researchers found that men whose main dietary source was saturated fat had 41 percent lesser sperm count compared to those with the lowest fat intake and men with the highest intake of monounsaturated fat had 46 percent fewer sperm as opposed to those with the lowest consumption.

The Dietary Way to Increase Fertility

The fertility of the current generation of men is considerably lower than that of their grandfathers, or great grandfathers, and a large part of that is due to dietary and environmental concerns.

Tom improve sperm quality the diet needs to have more of the healthier fats such as omega 3 and omega 6 found in fish, whole grains, fresh fruits, nuts, and vegetables.   This produces healthier and more active sperm, and polyunsaturated fat in particular is associated with improved sperm morphology and motility.”

In contrast, men who consumed foods containing healthier, polyunsaturated fats not only had greater sperm motility but also better sperm morphology. Morphology relates to the size and shape of the sperm and indicates a man’s fertility potential.

Polyunsaturated fats are particularly vital in relation as they are important components of sperm cell membranes and may influence the ability of sperm to fertilize an egg and may also stimulate hormone production.”

If you are planning on starting a family, then giving yourself – and your future child – the healthiest start does begin with the quality of the sperm.  This will deliver half of the genes necessary to the foetus and so it is wise to pay attention to what you are eating and put those Great British Breakfasts on hold for a while.

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Omega 3 for kids | 7:23 pm, May 7th, 2012

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AnnA Rushton | 3:54 pm, December 11th, 2010

The fascinating thing about research for me is not that I take it to be all true – but that it gives me another angle and potential source of information.

What we want to do here report the wide range of views for you to make up your own mind. The source of this story is Harvard Medical School and although it is only a small scale study, for anyone who is concerned about planning a family then it all adds to the information that you can assess for your own needs and circumstances.

Carleton_Bears | 3:44 pm, December 11th, 2010

Uh oh. The link between eating saturated fat and low sperm count is only a raw association. When other known factors are accounted for (i.e., let’s apply just a little bit of scientific rigor), that association disappears. Here is a statement from Medscape on this study:

The association between fat intake and semen quality parameters was made with linear regression while adjusting for total energy intake, age, abstinence time, body mass index, smoking status, and intakes of caffeine and alcohol. The results showed that saturated fatty acid levels in sperm were inversely related to sperm concentration (r = −0.53); however, saturated fat intake was unrelated to sperm levels.

So, what this article demonstrates is confirmation bias — the author believes eating saturated fat is bad because that is conventional wisdom, and so let’s report an unscientific “finding” from a study which in fact scientifically showed that eating saturated fat has no effect on sperm count.

Rex | 7:13 pm, November 14th, 2010

I like this statement:
To improve sperm quality the diet needs to have more of the healthier fats such as omega 3 and omega 6 found in fish, whole grains, fresh fruits, nuts, and vegetables. This produces healthier and more active sperm, and polyunsaturated fat in particular is associated with improved sperm morphology and motility.”

I can not disagree with the author. Omega-3 fatty acids are very important.

Why eat omega-3 fatty acids from flax seed?

Dietary deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids can cause long term damage to human health. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recognized the importance of omega-3 to public health and their importance to coronary health.

Here is a problem:

The omega-3 in American diet has decreased gradually over time with the increased consumption of processed foods. On the other hand dietary levels of Omega-6 fatty acids have increased due to consumption of oils that are rich in omega-6 fatty acids. This dietary imbalance of omega fatty acids has created unfavorable ratio of omega 3:omega 6 in our body.

It is not just the amount of omega-3 consumed but the amount of omega-3 in relation to the amount of omega-6 oils consumed that is important to keep the ratio to a favorable level of 1:4 (omega 3:omega 6).


Flaxseed provides one of the only non-animal sources of omega-3 that contains significantly more omega-3 than omega-6. About 57% of total oil in flaxseed is in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an Omega-3 fatty acid that is essential for human health. To improve omega-3 levels and ratio between omega 3 and Omega 6, it is important to consume foods that contain significantly higher levels of omega-3 than omega-6. There are very few foods that do that – Flaxseed is one of them.

The ALA is converted by the body into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) omega-3s that are found in fish oils. The EPA and DHA are also essential omega-3 fatty acids for human health. The conversion of ALA to EPA and DHA is not a very efficient process in body but remember a diet rich in flax seed, will provide all three omega-3 fatty acids that are essential to healthy human health.

How flax seeds help your health?
Flax seed promote cardiovascular health: Omega-3 fatty acids present in flax seed will lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.

Flax seed promote colon health: Fiber in the flax seed works excellent for people suffering from constipation.

Flax seed can boost immunity: Eating flax seeds will improve your resistance to diseases and promotes good health.

Flax seed provides oil for brain development:

Flax seed have anti-inflammatory benefits: Omega-3 fats in flax seed can help reduce the inflammation that is a significant factor in conditions such as asthma, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, migraine headaches, and osteoporosis.

Flax seed help fight breast cancer: Flaxseed plays a role in the prevention and treatment of breast cancer and that the lignans may in part be responsible for its effect. The nature of the effect depends on the stage of the cancer process at which flax seed are introduced in the diet.

Flax seed works as a natural weight loss product: Flax seed are rich in oil, a high energy nutrient. Eating flaxseed give you “satisfied” feeling. The feeling that you get when you have completed a meal. Nutritionists term this as satiety – the feeling of fullness. Foods with minimal nutritive value leave you still craving food. Eating flax seed will reduce your overall daily food intake and assist you with weight management.

How flax seed is promoted for use?
Herbalists promote the use of flaxseed for constipation, abdominal problems, breathing problems, sore throat, eczema, menstrual problems, arthritis, to lower cholesterol levels, boost the immune system, and prevent cancer.

Sources of flax seed:
Flax seed can be purchased at most supermarkets, bulk-food stores, and natural health food stores or directly through many manufacturers.
Common sources of flax seed are:

•Whole flax seed
•Ground flax seed/milled flax seed
•FlaxPro Ready to eat whole flax seed
•Flax seed meal capsules
•Other forms of flax seed: cereals, breads, crackers, energy bars, muffin, waffle mix and snacks (chips, trail mixes and muesli).
•Omega-3 enriched eggs (hens are fed the flax seed meal)
Safe Use of Flax seeds
Flaxseed is generally believed to be safe. However, there are some potential risks to consider. As with many substances, there have been reports of life-threatening allergic reactions to flaxseed. Because of its potential effects on estrogen, pregnant or breast-feeding women should probably avoid flaxseed. Flaxseed may not be safe for women with a history of estrogen-sensitive cancer, such as breast cancer or uterine cancer. Do not apply flaxseed to open wounds or broken skin.

People with known allergy to flaxseed or any other members of the Linaceae plant family or Linum genus should avoid flaxseed products. Based on animal studies, overdose of flaxseed may cause shortness of breath, rapid breathing, weakness, or difficulty walking, and may cause seizures or paralysis. Large amounts of flaxseed by mouth may cause the intestines to stop moving (ileus). People with narrowing of the esophagus or intestine, ileus, or bowel obstruction should avoid flaxseed. Talk with your doctor before consuming large amounts of flaxseed. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.

Rex | 7:06 pm, November 14th, 2010

Informative article.
The butter oil from cows grazing in pasture is high (18%) in unsaturated fatty acids than butter from cows that are fed inside the barn. It is good to take butter or butter oil from grass fed cows.

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