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Male Fertility: Is Being Vegetarian Bad for Sperm?

Male Fertility: Is Being Vegetarian Bad for Sperm?

Many often think eating a vegetarian diet automatically equates to better overall health, versus eating a diet that includes some animal products. There are staunch advocates for both ways of eating. What one study has found is that when it comes to male fertility health, particularly if an otherwise healthy male has poor sperm health and he and his wife are struggling to conceive, eating some meat may be better than eating none at all.

Given little research exists evaluating the correlation between a vegetarian diet and poor sperm health, researchers from Loma Linda University Medical School in California decided to see what they could find (and add to the list of what research exists). I share a short summary of the study below. It may surprise you that the study concluded that the sperm count and health of men following a vegetarian diet was significantly reduced compared to men who included meat in their diets. You now may be wondering why.

Should Infertile Men Eat Meat?

The study referenced above is just one study. Yet, I feel like this is an important topic to touch on particularly for seemingly healthy men who suddenly, or for no evident reason, learn they have sperm health issues. Could it be because they are lacking nutrients or are too healthy for healthy fertility? Seems odd to even think that, I know, but we see too much exercise and too little body fat, low-fat diets and being underweight impact female fertility health, so it does not seem far-fetched to think that these things could impact male fertility health as well. We know that both genders can have nutrient deficiencies that can impact their overall and fertility health.

We know that diet and lifestyle impact sperm health. Heat and exposure to toxins and xenohormones are very harmful to the cells of the human body, particularly sperm. Men with sperm health issues must commit to making dietary changes to boost antioxidant levels and lifestyle changes to reduce undue heat to the testes and excessive exposure to toxins.

Other things we know …

  • Low sperm count can be due to low levels of vitamin B12.
  • High cholesterol has been linked to poor sperm health.
  • Healthy cholesterol is necessary for healthy hormone production.
  • Antioxidant abundant plant foods boost sperm health and concentrations.
  • Processed vegetarian foods marketed as healthy often aren’t healthy. They are often in fact filled with natural sugar and void of many nutrients.
  • Many vegetarian/vegan diets contain a lot of processed soy, which can contribute to excess estrogen and often exposes men to GMOs and pesticides. Processed soy is a food to avoid when battling infertility.
  • Estrogen dominance happens in men and impacts male hormone balance.
  • Declining male fertility is being linked more and more to exposure to pesticides. Pesticides mimic estrogen, which can then cause low testosterone, impairing sperm production.
  • Animal products are rich sources of vitamin B12 and CoQ10, both of which are fertility and sperm-protective for men.
  • Low iron and copper have been linked to poor sperm motility, morphology, and low sperm count.
  • Healthy digestion is key! A highly processed diet, whether vegetarian or otherwise, impairs proper digestion (not to mention contributes to inflammation).

So, what’s best to eat-meat or not?
Our team advocates for eating a balanced diet when battling infertility. The Fertility Diet can include some lean, organic or grass-fed/free-range animal products, yet if you choose not to or can’t eat them for health/religious/ethical reasons, we also understand. No matter what, be sure your meals contain:

  • balanced proportions of “slow” or complex carbohydrates and protein
  • healthy fats for healthy cholesterol production (necessary for healthy hormone production)
  • lots of fruits and veggies that are all of the colors of the rainbow

These great resources will help you make informed, healthy choices…
The Male Fertility Diet
Increasing Low Sperm Count and Improving Male Fertility…
Studies Link Lifestyle Factors To Male Infertility
Causes of Male Infertility: What You Need to Know

If battling male factor infertility, consider also learn more about the Male Factor Formula Kit.

Loma Linda University Study Particulars:
The study evaluated semen analyses of 475 men taken between 2009 to 2013. Participants were either Lacto-ovo vegetarians [vegetarians who consume dairy and eggs (no meat or fish)] or non-vegetarians.

Study Objective: “The objective was to compare sperm characteristics of male infertility patients on vegetarian and non-vegetarian diets.”

Semen analysis was carried out largely to look at sperm concentration and sperm motility, including forward movement or progression, and normal sperm morphology.


  • Orzylowska, E.M. et al. (Sept. 2014) Decreased sperm concentration and motility in a subpopulation of vegetarian males at a designated blue zone geographic region. Fertility and Sterility , Volume 102 , Issue 3 , e273. Retrieved from:
  • Zareba P1, Colaci DS, Afeiche M, Gaskins AJ, Jørgensen N, et al. (2013 Dec). Semen quality in relation to antioxidant intake in a healthy male population. Fertil Steril. 2013 Dec;100(6):1572-9. doi: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2013.08.032. Retrieved from:
  • Tvrda, E., Peer, R., Sikka, S.C. and Ashok Agarwa, A. (2015 Jan.,) Iron and copper in male reproduction: a double-edged sword. J Assist Reprod Genet. 2015 Jan; 32(1): 3–16. doi: 10.1007/s10815-014-0344-7PMCID: PMC4294866. Retrieved from:

Dr. Christine Traxler M.D., OB/GYN
Dr. Christine Traxler M.D., OB/GYN

Dr. Traxler is a University-trained obstetrician/gynecologist, working with patients in Minnesota for over 20 years. She is a professional medical writer; having authored multiple books on pregnancy and childbirth; textbooks and coursework for medical students and other healthcare providers; and has written over 1000 articles on medical, health, and wellness topics.  Dr. Traxler attended the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences and University of Minnesota Medical School,  earning a degree in biochemistry with summa cum laude honors in 1981,  and receiving her Medical Doctorate degree (MD) in 1986.

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  1. Avatar

    Thanks for your article, but the issues you address have nothing to do with a healthy vegan or vegetarian diet. Any poorly-planned diet will effect health in a negative way–many meat-eaters are low in B12! And processed, GMO soy is found in nearly every processed food, especially those geared at meat eaters. You’re essentially saying that junky, Standard American Diets are bad for male fertility. Please don’t call this a vegetarian or vegan problem, it can steer people away from one of the healthiest choices out there.

  2. Avatar

    Amazing article, thank you very much for your informations