Trying for a baby? Eat nuts!

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New research shows eating nuts like almonds boosts sperm quality to help couples facing fertility challenges

Move over red roses.  If you’re nuts about someone, why not say it with… nuts? If you’re a couple trying for a baby, then even more reason to do so; a new study shows that almonds, along with other tree nuts, may help support male fertility and in turn the 3.5 million British couples facing infertility. The researchers found that eating 60 grams (about two portions) of nuts daily – including almonds – significantly improves the total sperm count and the vitality, motility and morphology (size and shape) of the sperm.

This recent study – with a combination of almonds (15g), hazelnuts (15g) and walnuts (30g) – showed similar sperm quality results as previous walnuts-only research demonstrated (i) but additionally increased sperm count by 16%. So, it seems that a mix of nuts may be key. Further, almonds are rich in zinc, which contributes to normal fertility and reproduction.

Previous research on infertility has suggested that poor eating habits, among other unhealthy behaviours and environmental factors, may be a contributor to declining sperm counts and sperm quality in industrialised countries. The new FERTINUTS study was first presented at the 2018 European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology meeting.

This study was funded by the International Nut and Dried Fruit Council (INC) who have created a short informative video explaining the results, highlighting the fact that fertility is an issue that affecting about 1 in 7 couples worldwide, with male factors responsible for 40-50% of these cases.

This study builds on a previous finding on walnuts alone (75g/day for 12 weeks) that found improvements in sperm vitality, motility and morphology, but not in total sperm count. The addition of almonds and hazelnuts to the study diet resulted in improvements in the same measures of quality, but increased sperm count as an added benefit. The researchers note that this current study agrees with the results from the walnuts-only study and “extends the seminal improvements obtained from eating walnuts to other types of nuts.”

“Having a healthy diet is an important, but often-overlooked piece of the fertility puzzle.  This study shows that adding tree nuts like almonds offers a potentially easy way to boost male fertility and may help support couples trying to conceive.” 

Consultant Dietitian Juliette Kellow

In order to test this hypothesis researchers conducted a trial with two groups of participants – one group carried on with their regular diet avoiding nut consumption and the other group ate their regular diet with the addition of almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts.

The sperm and blood samples taken from all the participants at the end of the trial showed that the group who had added nuts to their diet showed

  • 16% higher sperm count
  • 6% improvement in sperm motility (sperm cells’ ability to swim)
  • 4% higher sperm vitality (the amount of live, healthy sperm cells found in semen)
  • 1% improvement in sperm morphology (which refers to the sperm cells’ normal healthy size and shape)

Importantly, those in the nut-eating group also had less sperm DNA fragmentation, showing that genetic integrity was better preserved in the sperm of nut-eaters. (When sperm DNA is too fragmented, fertility declines or miscarriage risk is higher.)

This suggests that the inclusion of nuts in a Western-style diet significantly improves the total sperm count and the vitality, motility, and morphology of the sperm.

All studies of this type come with their limitations and one of these is that the participants used were all healthy and apparently fertile men. It is important to note that it is therefore not possible to generalise these results to those who are suffering infertility problems,

Having said this if you are a fan of nuts then it might be worth a try?

[i] Robbins WA, Xun L, FitzGerald LZ, Esguerra S, Henning SM, Carpenter CL. Walnuts improve semen quality in men consuming a Western-style diet: randomized control dietary intervention trial. Biol Reprod 2012;87:1–8.

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