Current reports indicate that fertility problems affect approximately 15% of Australian couples. There’s a lot of focus on women improving their diet and lifestyle but dad’s-to-be should aim to improve their diet just as much as their partners. Sub-optimal diets can contribute to low sperm outputs and/or sperm abnormalities.
Three key dietary changes that men need to focus on are:
Omega-3 is a type of poly-unsaturated fatty acid and is generally well known for its benefits for heart, joint and mental health. Research has shown that sperm membranes have a much higher Omega-3 concentration than other cells of the body highlighting the significant role Omega-3’s may also play in fertility. Inadequate Omega-3 intake can negatively impact sperm production and motility.
The best sources of Omega-3’s are found in oily fish and other marine sources, however lean meats, nuts and eggs are also good sources. Australian guidelines recommend 2-3 serves of oily fish per week (150g/serve), which is equivalent to around 500mg of Omega-3s per day. Omega-3 supplementation is also easily accessible for those who are unable to meet nutritional recommendations.
Zinc is one of the most important micronutrients required for optimal fertility as it enables cells to divide properly and regulates testosterone production. Without it, men may produce sperm that are immature or with chromosomal defects. Studies have shown adequate zinc intake of 14mg/day, can increase sperm count and improve the form, function and quality of sperm. Increasing dietary intake from zinc-rich foods including oysters, crab, chicken, turkey, low fat diary and seeds such as pumpkin or sesame seeds is the easiest way to avoid deficiency and optimise fertility.
Men should monitor their alcohol intake just as seriously as their partners when trying to conceive. Excessive alcohol can reduce a man’s testosterone levels, leading to loss of libido. It can also damage the quantity, quality, structure and movement of sperm by stopping the liver from properly absorbing vitamin A, which is needed for sperm development. Alcohol is toxic to the testes which can harm sperm production, maturation and motility.
If you drink, Australian guidelines advise to limit your intake to no more than two drinks a day.
When trying for a baby, men too should get their diet and lifestyle ready for pregnancy. Cutting down on alcohol and improving the nutritional adequacy of your diet may provide that extra fertility boost to help bring in a little bundle of joy for you. For more information, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with your local Accredited Practising Dietitian.
Melanie McGrice AdvAPD is one of Australia’s best known dietitians. She is a highly respected author and health presenter on nutrition and dietary issues – and a lover of great food! Join her free nutrition and wellbeing network at www.melaniemcgrice.com.au.
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