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Studies Link Lifestyle Factors To Male Infertility

Studies Link Lifestyle Factors To Male Infertility

Simple diet changes can improve sperm health.

Simple diet changes can improve sperm health.

Several studies have shown that there is a direct link between male infertility, lifestyle factors, and poor sperm health.

If you are struggling to get pregnant, it may be time to examine what is going on in your male partner’s life. It is highly likely there may be an issue with his fertility if he makes poor lifestyle choices. The good news is, these can be changed and sperm health can be improved by simply changing bad habits into healthy ones!

Junk Food Shown To Cause Poor Sperm Health in Younger Men

A study released in October of 2011 shows that junk food high in trans fats can make young men infertile by damaging their sperm.

Researchers from Harvard University and the University of Murcia, in Spain, conducted an analysis of sperm from hundreds of men between the ages of 18 to 22. All men were of good health and had no other health issues that could negatively impact fertility health. The men actively engaged in regular exercise and were of a balanced weight, yet their sperm were shown less likely to survive inside the womb, preventing conception. The one common link between these men? They regularly ate junk food, high in trans fats.

This study concluded that regular consumption of junk food lowered the quality of sperm in younger men.

Lifestyle Factors Play An Important Role In Sperm Quality

This relatively large study, printed in Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology, in 2012, analyzed the sperm of 1683 patients undergoing assisted reproductive technologies (ART).

All of the men participated in a survey about their age, body mass index (BMI), ejaculation frequency, nutrition, sports, sleep habits, and social behavior. Semen samples were collected and evaluated based on MSOME (motile sperm organelle morphology examination) and World Health Organization (WHO) criteria.

The results of a close examination of both the survey and results of the semen analysis showed that although no single parameter was shown to directly affect sperm health, the combination of higher BMI, regular coffee intake, low ejaculatory frequency and sexual abstinence was shown to have a negative effect on sperm motility. Motility is how the sperm moves.

The study concluded that a combination of adverse lifestyle factors may have a detrimental effect on sperm count, motility and the amount of cellular fluid in the sperm head, known as cytoplasm. The combination of these factors may greatly reduce a couple’s chance at a successful and healthy pregnancy.

Important findings in this study:

  • Men who used nicotine regularly were shown to have poor sperm morphology. They found little difference in how much nicotine was used daily, just that any use at all had a higher incidence of negative impact.
  • Men with a BMI of 25 (pre-obese) or greater were shown to have significantly more immotile sperm that men with a BMI less than 25.
  • Age greatly impacts sperm quality and sperm health greatly declines as a man ages. Patients older than 50 had less ejaculation volume and lower semen quality.
  • Infrequent ejaculation or sexual abstinence can lead to oxidative stress due to reduction in semen turn-over. This means that the sperm stay in the gonads longer and therefore are exposed to reactive oxygen species, leukocytes or other toxic substances which can damage them. Men who ejaculated 4 or more times per month, had better sperm morphology.
  • Men who consumed 3 or more cups of coffee per day had reduced sperm concentration and total sperm count, as well as lower sperm quality.

Diet & Lifestyle Habits Greatly Impact Sperm Health

This study, published by Fertility and Sterility, 11/10/2011, observed 250 men, who were to undergo intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). The doctors evaluated their sperm samples prior to ICSI to determine the sperm health, count and motility. The outcomes of each of the IVF procedures were also observed. The men filled out daily questionnaires on how much they consumed alcoholic beverages, details of everything they ate, and how often they smoked cigarettes. Their body mass index (BMI) was also noted.

Negative findings in this study:

  • Men who are overweight to obese (high BMI) have slower sperm and lower concentration of sperm.
  • Men who drink alcohol regularly also have lower sperm motility and concentration.
  • Men who regularly smoked cigarettes had poor sperm motility.
  • Both alcohol and coffee consumption showed a reduced chance of fertilization.
  • Men who ate red meat had lowered had lower implantation and pregnancy rates.
  • Men who were on a weight loss diet had lowered implantation and pregnancy rates.

Of all the couples in the study, there was a high rate of successful fertilization of 75%, but just under 21% resulted in pregnancy. This study shows that poor lifestyle habits can greatly lower the quality of sperm health and reduce chances of a successful pregnancy.


It appears that a common cause of male infertility could simply be poor lifestyle choices, which are negatively impacting sperm health. Fortunately, this can be changed! Men can improve their sperm health in as little as 3 months by implementing some simple tips.

5 Quick Tips to Improve Sperm Health

1. Eat a whole food, nutrient-dense fertility diet that includes whole grains, a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, good fats, lots of clean water and clean protein.

2. Reduce and maintain a BMI between 19 to 25 through dietary changes and regular moderate exercise.

3. Make sure that you are climaxing and ejaculating more than 4 times a month. This will help prevent oxidative damage to sperm.

4. Avoid processed junk foods high in trans fats, alcohol, nicotine and caffeine consumption; all of these have been shown to reduce sperm count and quality.

5. Implement all these changes for at least 3 months to change the health of your sperm.

Want to learn more about what you can do to improve sperm health and count? Click here…


  • Junk Food Shown To Cause Infertility In Younger Men. (n.d.). Retrieved from:
  • Wogatzky, J., Wirleitner, B., Stecher, A., Vanderzwalmen, P., Neyer, A., Spitzer, D., . . . Zech, N. H. (2012). The combination matters – distinct impact of lifestyle factors on sperm quality: A study on semen analysis of 1683 patients according to MSOME criteria. Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology, 10(1), 115. doi:10.1186/1477-7827-10-115. Retrieved from:
  • Daniela Paes De Almeida Ferreira Braga, Halpern, G., Figueira, R. D., Setti, A. S., Iaconelli, A., & Borges, E. (2012). Food intake and social habits in male patients and its relationship to intracytoplasmic sperm injection outcomes. Fertility and Sterility, 97(1), 53-59. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2011.10.011. 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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    I am trying to become pregnant, for one year now, but no success. I usually have a dark clotty flow. What should I do? I am a Nigerian.