Simple steps to improve male fertility

For several years, research has focused on maternal health pre-conception and how this may influence the chance of conceiving, in addition to affecting the offspring’s future health outcomes.


In couples that are struggling to conceive, infertility arising secondary to male factors account for 20-30% of all cases. There are a range of causes of male infertility, including; immunological causes, endocrine disorders and malignancy.

However, in 30% of cases, no cause is found and this is known as idiopathic infertility. In these cases, lifestyle factors may be contributing. So, what are the key nutritional factors men need to consider to improve their sperm quality and quantity?

1. Trans and saturated fats

These are fats commonly found in foods such as fried foods, confectionary and fatty cuts of red and processed meat. Research has consistently shown that they can negatively affect the total sperm count and the quality of the semen.

Some studies have also shown that these fats can negatively impact the motility of sperm. It is therefore advised that men reduce their intake of foods high in trans fats as much as possible – the closer to zero, the better – although it is acknowledged that this can be difficult if often relying on commercial foods.

When it comes to saturated fat, men should be encouraged to have less than 10% total energy intake per day, in keeping with general healthy eating guideline. Saturated fat is found in butter, coconut oil, lard, pastries, the visible fat on meat and fried foods. Trans fat is found in fried foods, and some types of cakes, biscuits and margarine – however trans-fat levels in food products have significantly reduced in many countries, including the UK, in recent years.

2. Dairy

Findings of studies looking at dairy and links of male infertility have been inconclusive and conflicting. One study showed that men who frequently consumed full-fat dairy had a higher frequency of abnormal sperm size and shape, in addition to negatively impacting sperm motility. On the other hand, other studies did not find any relation between sperm characteristics and full-fat dairy consumption. It is important to note that this same study did find that having low-fat dairy did positively impact the concentration of the sperm and their ability to move.  

Although it is difficult to discern a strong association, when results are combined, it does appear that any negative impact that dairy may have on sperm may in fact be related to the saturated fat content of dairy rather than the dairy itself. It may be prudent for men who are having difficulty conceiving to switch to low-fat dairy in the mean-time.

3. Oily fish

Studies have found that oily fish consumption of at least twice per week has positive impacts on the quality of the sperm. This is likely due to the omega 3 fats present in fish, specifically since as sperm cells mature, the amount of omega 3 in the sperm cell membrane significantly increases.

It is not exactly clear what function the omega 3 fatty acids serve in the sperm membrane however, it is believed that it has functions involved in processes linked to fertilisation. Sources of oily fish include herring, salmon, pilchards, sardines, sprats, trout and mackerel.

4. Supplements

There has been considerable interest in supplements and infertility and they can definitely play a role in improving men’s reproductive health. Some supplements that do have an evidence base behind them include selenium, COQ10, folate, zinc, vitamin C and vitamin E.  

Before taking any supplements, it is recommended that you speak with a healthcare professional, such as your GP or local pharmacist, to ensure that it is the best and safest option for you. 

In my experience, many people end up taking the wrong type of supplements at the wrong dose, which is why personalised advice is so important.

When you’re ready to up your fertility game and feel confident about your food choices for fertility, free yourself from restrictive diets and stop wasting time (and money) on treatments, supplements and FADs that don't work, I can help! 

Book a free clarity call and get clear on the next steps that you need to take to boost your fertility and how I can help you achieve this. You will leave this phone call with at least one action point that you can implement immediately to help make your fertility journey that bit easier.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Nutritionist Resource are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London SW14 & E18
Written by Rania Salman, Registered Dietitian, PgDip (Merit), BSc (Honours), MBDA
London SW14 & E18

Rania Salman is a trained dietitian who uses an evidence-based approach to support you in reaching your goals. Her areas of expertise include Fertility, PCOS, weight loss/gain in addition to general health and well-being. She has worked in some of the most well-known NHS trusts, in addition to working for the private sector.

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