Study suggests Mediterranean diet could boost male fertility: ‘Crucial role’


A new study from Italy found that the Mediterranean diet could have a beneficial effect on male fertility.

The study, published in the journal Food Science, explored the different causes of male infertility, pinpointing how diet plays a “crucial role in improving a man’s reproductive capacity.”

The researchers suggested that an appropriate diet for men should include a diverse range of essential ingredients, similar to those found in the Mediterranean diet.

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The Mediterranean diet involves high amounts of vegetables and fruits that are “rich in detoxifying and antioxidant substances,” the researchers noted in a discussion of the findings.

The study included 50 “sub-fertile” men who were provided with specific nutrition plans that consisted of 80% organic foods.

The Mediterranean diet was ranked as the top regimen in U.S. News and World Report’s annual list of the best overall diets for 2022.  (iStock)

The plan also introduced whole grains and low glycemic load options (which have minimal impact on blood sugar levels), grass-fed meat and wild-caught seafood, and a daily intake of leafy greens and red fruits.

It also eliminated refined carbs and saturated fats in exchange for healthy fats like olive oil, avocado and nuts. 

Dairy products were reduced or eliminated.

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The men, who were ages 35 to 45, followed this diet for three months and were evaluated between Nov. 2020 and Oct. 2021.

Before the study, the pool of men exhibited “limited concern for food quality, rarely reading food labels and rarely purchasing organic products.”

“Grass-fed meat, fish and organic eggs can contain higher levels of omega 3 DHA, which is found in the sperm tail and is associated with sperm motility,” a dietitian told Fox News Digital. (iStock)

The men who stuck with the Mediterranean-inspired food plan saw a significant increase in testosterone levels, the study found.

In a subgroup of individuals who reduced their carb intake by 35%, sperm DNA fragmentation (damaged DNA) decreased with consumption of the modified diet.

“Diets rich in vitamins, minerals, polyphenols and antioxidants are critical for protecting sperm from oxidative stress and damage.”

“The male contribution to a couple’s fertility is important and the findings of this study underscore the importance of dietary variation and the inclusion of organic foods in achieving this goal,” the researchers wrote. 

“Specifically, adhering to a pre-conception Mediterranean diet that is low in carbohydrates and high in legumes, whole grains and green leafy vegetables, along with consuming 80% organic foods, was associated with improved testosterone levels and reduced sperm DNA fragmentation.”

The study findings emphasized the importance of “dietary variation,” according to the researchers. (iStock)

Although the study size was limited, the researchers said the findings “emphasize the significance of consuming quality food for physical and psychological well-being and suggest that it may serve as an achievable measure of human resilience against environmental insults.”

Fox News Digital reached out to the study authors for additional comment.

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Registered dietitian and nutritionist Ilana Muhlstein, who is based in Los Angeles, told Fox News Digital she’s seen firsthand the beneficial impact nutrition can have on both male and female fertility.

“It’s amazing how even a moderate weight loss can make significant changes to a person’s hormone levels and ability to conceive,” she said.

Other studies have shown how diets high in refined carbs and sugar can have negative effects on sperm health, Muhlstein mentioned.

Registered dietitian nutritionist Ilana Muhlstein (pictured) called the new study “eye-opening.” (BODi)

“Additionally, following a Mediterranean-style diet rich in vegetables, lean proteins, high-fiber carbohydrates and healthy fats may help reduce inflammation, which can benefit fertility,” she added.

The study took the diet “one step further” by focusing on specifics like mostly organic food, frequent nuts and seafood, limited dairy, daily red fruit, three servings of green vegetables, and refined sugar and packaged food avoidance, Muhlstein pointed out.

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The “noteworthy” increase in testosterone levels could be due to the focus on organic foods, which contain fewer pesticides and pollutants and higher levels of bioactive compounds, she said.

“Diets rich in vitamins, minerals, polyphenols and antioxidants are critical for protecting sperm from oxidative stress and damage,” the dietitian said. 

The new study revealed that Mediterranean-style diets could improve male fertility. (iStock)

“Additionally, grass-fed meat, fish and organic eggs can contain higher levels of omega 3 DHA, which is found in the sperm tail and is associated with sperm motility,” Muhlstein added.

The study also surveyed the benefits of lowering carb intake, which proved beneficial for weight and blood sugar control.

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The study was limited by including only men with a BMI range of 20 to 24, Muhlstein pointed out.

“I wish in the future that they would conduct this study with overweight and obese men, because I am sure the findings would have been even more significant,” she said.

A fertility doctor recommended that men who are experiencing fertility complications switch to a Mediterranean-based diet. (iStock)

Dr. Reem Sabouni, M.D., a reproductive endocrinologist and fertility specialist at Houston Fertility Institute, called the study findings “interesting” in a response sent to Fox News Digital.

The Mediterranean diet “appears to positively influence male fertility,” the doctor said.

“This aligns with our understanding of nutrition’s role in overall health,” she said. “For men with male factor infertility (MFI), adopting a Mediterranean-based diet could be a beneficial, non-invasive strategy to improve fertility health.”

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These findings are “promising, potentially contributing to addressing the global decline in sperm counts,” Sabouni told Fox News Digital.

Based on the study’s evidence, the doctor recommended that men with MFI should switch to a Mediterranean-based diet.

The Mediterranean diet involves high amounts of vegetables and fruits that are “rich in detoxifying and antioxidant substances,” the researchers noted in a discussion of the findings. (iStock)

“The diet’s rich antioxidants and balanced nutrients likely play a key role in enhancing reproductive health,” she added.

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“[The study] underscores the importance of lifestyle and dietary factors in reproductive health, which [are] in our control.”

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