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Food, Health, and Eco-news
Fish Helps Male Fertility, Processed Meat Hurts It
Harvard study finds fish-rich diets better for men's fertility, versus processed meats 10/21/2013 By Craig Weatherby
Omega-3s play a role in supporting male reproductive capacity.
And that role appears pretty significant, based on lab studies and preliminary clinical evidence (Roqueta-Rivera M et al. 2010; UI 2010).
Three years ago, new clinical evidence indicated that omega-3s from seafood support male fertility.
Those clinical results showed that that infertile men had lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their sperm, compared with fertile men (see “Omega-3s Linked to Fertility in Mice and Men”).
The Iranian team responsible for that study also discovered that the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids was significantly higher in infertile men … and that men's sperm count fell as their omega-6/omega-3 ratios rose (see “America's Sickening 'Omega Imbalance'”.
Now, an epidemiological study from the U.S. adds weight to the idea that omega-3s play an important role in men's reproductive capacity.
Harvard study links fishy diets to enhanced sperm quality and quantity
The new study was presented last week at a meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine in Boston.
Harvard University researchers studied 156 men in couples suffering conception problems who were undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment with their partners (Afeiche M et al.).
They compared the eating habits of 156 men to their self-reported diets and the size and shape of their sperm.
Each man was asked how often he ate a range of foods, including:
  • Red meat (e.g., beef, pork, or lamb)
  • White meat (e.g., white chicken meat)
  • White fish (e.g., cod, halibut, or pollock)
  • Processed meat (e.g., bacon, ham, and cold cuts)
  • Fatty fish (e.g., tuna, sardines, salmon, or sablefish).
The Harvard team's comparison of the men's reported diets to their sperm quality and quantity yielded these associations:
  • Men who ate the most white fish (one portion every other day) had better sperm quality than those who ate it rarely.
  • Men who ate the most fatty fish had 34 percent more sperm than men who ate it rarely.
  • Men who averaged one-half portion of processed meat daily had 5.5 percent normal- shaped sperm cells, compared to 7.2 percent in those who ate less processed meat.
As Dr. Myriam Afeiche of Harvard's Department of Nutrition said, “We found that processed meat intake was associated with lower semen quality and fish was to higher semen quality.”
Why would processed red meat hurt the quality of a man's sperm?
Conventionally raised beef, pork, and lamb can contain pesticides, hormones, and other substances that can interfere with human hormones (Foster WG et al. 2008).
(Note: Vital Choice offers salmon-based alternatives to regular bacon, burgers, and sausage, as well as organic, grass-fed beef.)
The findings add to the growing evidence that a couple's chances of conceiving is governed by lifestyle, with smoking, alcohol and stress exerting detrimental effects.
We highly recommend Be Fruitful: The Holistic Path to Fertility, a well-researched book from Victoria Maizes, M.D.
Dr. Maizes is a recognized expert on women's health and the executive director of the at the University of Arizona's Center for Integrative Medicine, founded by Andrew Weil, M.D.
  • Afeiche M et al. Meat intake and semen parameters among men attending a fertility clinic. American Society for Reproductive Medicine 2013 Annual Meeting. Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Monday, October 14, 2013 Accessed at
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  • Foster WG, Neal MS, Han MS, Dominguez MM. Environmental contaminants and human infertility: hypothesis or cause for concern? J Toxicol Environ Health B Crit Rev. 2008 Mar;11(3-4):162-76.
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  • Roqueta-Rivera M, Stroud CK, Haschek WM, Akare SJ, Segre M, Brush RS, Agbaga MP, Anderson RE, Hess RA, Nakamura MT. Docosahexaenoic acid supplementation fully restores fertility and spermatogenesis in male delta-6 desaturase-null mice. J Lipid Res. 2010 Feb;51(2):360-7. Epub 2009 Aug 18.
  • Safarinejad MR, Hosseini SY, Dadkhah F, Asgari MA. Relationship of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids with semen characteristics, and anti-oxidant status of seminal plasma: a comparison between fertile and infertile men. Clin Nutr. 2010 Feb;29(1):100-5. Epub 2009 Aug 8.
  • Sallmén M, Weinberg CR, Baird DD, Lindbohm ML, Wilcox AJ. Has human fertility declined over time?: why we may never know. Epidemiology. 2005 Jul;16(4):494-9.
  • Stroud CK, Nara TY, Roqueta-Rivera M, Radlowski EC, Lawrence P, Zhang Y, Cho BH, Segre M, Hess RA, Brenna JT, Haschek WM, Nakamura MT. Disruption of FADS2 gene in mice impairs male reproduction and causes dermal and intestinal ulceration. J Lipid Res. 2009 Sep;50(9):1870-80. Epub 2009 Apr 7.
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UI). Lack of omega-3 fatty acid linked to male infertility. Accessed at