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Mediterranean diet improves sperm quality and fertility

The Mediterranean diet is associated with enormous health benefits, such as reducing the risk of heart disease and improving cognitive function. Now, a study led by the University of South Australia has revealed that the Mediterranean diet also improves fertility.

“Infertility is a global health concern affecting 48 million couples and 186 million individuals worldwide,” wrote the study authors. 

“Infertility creates a significant economic and social burden for couples who wish to conceive and has been associated with suboptimal lifestyle factors, including poor diet and physical inactivity.

The research suggests that the diet may help people overcome infertility, which means it has great potential as an affordable, non-intrusive option for couples who are struggling to conceive. The experts found that the Mediterranean diet improves fertility, assisted reproductive technology (ART) success, and sperm quality in men.

“Deciding to have a baby is one of life’s biggest decisions, but if things don’t go as planned, it can be very stressful for both partners,” said study co-author Dr. Evangeline Mantzioris.

“Research shows inflammation can affect fertility for both men and women, affecting sperm quality, menstrual cycles, and implantation. So, in this study we wanted to see how a diet that reduces inflammation – such as the Mediterranean diet – might improve fertility outcomes.

“Encouragingly, we found consistent evidence that by adhering to an anti-inflammatory diet – one that includes lots of polyunsaturated or ‘healthy’ fats, flavonoids (such as leafy green vegetables), and a limited amount of red and processed meat – we can improve fertility.”

The Mediterranean diet is primarily plant-based, and includes whole grains, extra virgin olive oil, fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes, nuts, herbs, and spices. Yoghurt, cheese, and lean protein sources such as fish, chicken, or eggs; red and processed meats are only eaten in small amounts.

 The Mediterranean diet includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and healthy fats, such as fish. This diet is associated with lower levels of inflammation, while a typical western diet has been linked with higher levels of inflammation.

Study co-author Simon Alesi of Monash University said that understanding the association between anti-inflammatory diets such as the Mediterranean diet, and fertility, could be a gamechanger for couples hoping to start a family.

“The Mediterranean diet is consistently ranked among the healthiest diets in the world. But knowing that it may also boost your chances of conceiving and having a baby is extremely promising,” said Alesi.

“Modifying your diet is a non-intrusive and affordable strategy that could potentially improve infertility. Of course, more research needs to be done, but at the very least, shifting to a Mediterranean diet will not only improve your overall health, but also your chances of conceiving.”

The study is published in the journal Nutrients.

By Chrissy Sexton, Editor

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