With fertility treatments on the rise, it’s natural to wonder if eating certain foods can boost one’s baby-making odds. In fact, recent studies have revealed that foods and specific nutrients can enhance a man’s virility. Find out which foods can amp—or dampen—virility.—Ana Mantica
Consuming more of certain nutrients found in fruits and vegetables, including folate, vitamin C and lycopene, was linked with healthier sperm counts in a 2009 study of 61 men published in the Fertility and Sterility journal. Researchers speculate that the antioxidants improve sperm quality.
Attention wanna-be daddies: Dump your soda! A 2010 Danish study found a link between cola consumption and reduced sperm quality. After tracking the cola intake of 2,554 men, scientists found that those who consumed more than 20 (12-ounce) cans of soda a week (that’s nearly three each day) were more likely to have reduced sperm count, reports a study in the American Journal of Epidemiology. Scientists are not sure what in cola may harm sperm, but it does not appear to be caffeine.
The omega-3 fatty acid DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), found in oily fish, may help improve sperm quality, suggests a study in the Journal of Lipid Research. University of Illinois researchers found that mice lacking a gene necessary to convert alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) into the long-chain omega-3 DHA that promotes brain function and heart health appeared to be infertile. “They produced a low sperm count (10% of the norm) and these sperm have an abnormal shape that doesn’t move,” says author Manabu T. Nakamura, D.V.M., Ph.D. Supplementing their diets with DHA reversed these abnormalities. It’s still too early to make recommendations for how many omega-3s men should aim to get, says Nakamura, but any amount is likely to be helpful.
Say it ain’t soy! Long-term consumption of a soy-rich diet may decrease sperm count, according to recent research in the journal Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology. Male mice fed a diet high in soy (the human equivalent of about 50 to 100 grams of soy daily, or about a 1/3 to 2/3 cup of edamame) for their entire lives had sperm counts 25 percent lower and litter sizes 21 percent smaller than mice fed a soy-free diet. Scientists also noted changes in genes involved in sperm motility in the mice that ate soy. Researchers suspect that soy’s isoflavones, compounds that act as weak estrogens in the body, may lower sperm quality.
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