We bet you’ve heard the news linking high LDL cholesterol and saturated fat intake (greasy cheeseburgers and premium ice cream) to low sperm counts, while good-fat foods such as fish and walnuts are associated with a bigger, better baby-making squad.
Our favorite headline (kudos to Maine’s Bangor Daily News!) says it all: Sperm goes limp with fatty foods, while fish perks them up. But don’t stop there. If you’re a man concerned about fertility (or a spouse hoping for a baby soon), we have a do-it-yourself male fertility improvement plan.
Healthy sperm and a robust sperm count improve your odds that a single sperm will survive its ultra-marathon journey and meet an eligible egg. And sperm have different functions. Some act like blockers to stop other sperm, which makes “survival of the fittest” sense for animals with multiple mates during rutting season, while others are sprinters designed to beat a path to the egg. More than half of a guy’s sperm are the sprinter/swimmer type, and those oval heads need to be strong enough to break through an egg’s tough outer layer.
So giving your sperm a healthy “makeover” makes sense for every couple trying for a baby. If you are younger than 34 and have been trying but haven’t conceived in 12 months, or if you’re 35 or older, talk with your doctor. And take these steps, starting today, for super-swimmer sperm:
Eat less (like none) of the bad fats and more of the good ones. Eating lots of saturated fat — found in red meats, processed meats, full-fat dairy products and many snack foods and desserts — can reduce sperm counts by 38 percent and slow the swimming ability of the remaining 62 percent. But getting more omega-3 fatty acids from fish such as salmon and wild trout means higher counts. To get more omega-3s, you also can take a supplement of 1,500 mg DHA (the most active omega-3) daily for 10 weeks, then cut back to 1,000 mg a day.
Hang out at the farm stand. Filling up on fruits and veggies protects sperm quality and quantity by revving up your body’s defenses that keep them healthy.
Add vitamin D-3 and zinc. Plenty of vitamin D-3 helps sperm swim better and faster. Aim for 1,000 IU a day from a D-3 supplement. Add 12 mg of zinc a day for a healthy sperm count and superior shape. Find zinc in your multi; great and healthy food sources include poultry, beans, cashews and no-fat, no-added-sugar yogurt.
Get that laptop off your lap and your phone out of your pocket. Surfing the Web or checking email with a Wi-Fi-connected laptop humming in your lap is bad news for sperms’ swimming skills and the precious DNA (yours!) cargo they carry. Phones may hamper male fertility, too.
Keep cool where it counts. Sperm production needs temperatures cooler than the rest of your body, which is why hot tubs, a fever and even a desk job can torpedo your count. Take stand-up breaks at work, let them breathe and make the switch to boxers from briefs. Tight skivvies can reduce sperm counts by up to 50 percent. Cyclists, mix up your exercise routine, too.
Skip the drinks and smokes. Smoking slashes your sperm count by 13 percent to 17 percent and triggers genetic abnormalities; there’s evidence marijuana also is bad news. More than one beer, a glass of wine or cocktail a day also messes with sperm quality. After two drinks, sperm get mixed up and travel in weird directions.
Stay trim for your swimmers. Adding extra pounds subtracts from your sperm count and ups the number of abnormal sperm in your arsenal. Why? Obesity may alter hormone levels and heat up your testicles.
Don’t hold back in the bedroom. Daily fun between the sheets improves sperm quality dramatically. Compared to several days of abstinence, daily intimacy reduces DNA damage in sperm by about 30 percent.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Medical Officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. For more information go to www.RealAge.com.