Eating nuts could boost fertility in men, according to a new study

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  • A new study has found eating two handfuls of nuts a day could improve men’s sperm counts.
  • Only fertile men were studied, so more research is needed to find out whether men with fertility problems would get the same benefits.
  • This research comes after an alarming study found that men’s sperm counts in the western world have been dropping since 1973.

Nuts are high in vitamins and fibre, and there’s also some evidence they may be good for keeping your heart healthy. According to a new study, presented by the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology, eating nuts could also help improve male fertility.

Researchers from Rovira i Virgili University in Spain recruited 119 men aged 18 to 35, and divided them into two groups. One group ate 60 grams, about two handfuls, of almonds, hazelnuts, and walnuts with their usual diet every day, while the second group ate none.

They were followed up after 14 weeks, and those who ate the nuts had significant improvements in their sperm count, vitality, and motility, and morphology. In other words, they had more sperm cells which were a better shape and moved further, and faster. They also had reduced DNA fragmentation, which is a measure of sperm damage.

Doctor is silhouetted as he walks past a poster in a Rome fertility clinic.

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Doctor is silhouetted as he walks past a poster in a Rome fertility clinic.
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Alessia Pierdomenico / Reuters

This comes after a study last year that found there was a significant general decline in men’s sperm counts – about 1.6% a year – in North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand between 1973 and 2011.

The results “support a beneficial role for chronic nut consumption in sperm quality,” the researchers said in a meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Barcelona. But they also stressed that all the participants were healthy and fertile.

The study didn’t look into whether men with fertility problems would experience any benefits from the nuts. It’s also worth noting the research was funded by the International Nut and Dried Food Council.

According to the authors, the results are consistent with previous research which has shown sperm can be improved by diets rich in omega-3, antioxidants like vitamin C and E, selenium, zinc, and folate – all of which are found in nuts. Certain vitamins, such as zinc, have also been associated with later menopause, according to a study earlier this year.

But as for whether men should add nuts to their diet if they’re trying to have a child, “we can’t yet say that,” said study co-author Albert Salas-Huetos.

“But evidence is accumulating in the literature that healthy lifestyle changes such as following a healthy dietary pattern might help conception – and of course, nuts are a key component of a Mediterranean healthy diet.”