Poor sperm quality due to an unhealthy diet?
Our diet has a major impact on general health and, according to a recent study, affects sperm motility and quality. This finding could contribute to new methods for measuring and improving sperm quality in the long term.
Linköping University's latest study found that men's diet can have a significant impact on sperm quality. The results of the study were published in the English language journal "PLOS Biology".
Effects of the diet come quickly
Sperm are affected by diet. The effects of diet on sperm occur very quickly. The study provides new insights into the function of sperm and could in the long term contribute to new diagnostic methods for measuring the quality of sperm.
Sperm motility is influenced by diet
The researchers observed that nutrition influences sperm motility. Ascertained changes could be linked to certain molecules in the sperm. Effects from nutrition on the quality of sperm appeared quickly and became noticeable after only one to two weeks, reports the research group.
Environmental and lifestyle factors affect sperm quality
Sperm quality can be affected by various environmental and lifestyle factors, with obesity and related diseases such as type 2 diabetes being known risk factors for poor sperm quality.
What do epigenetic changes do?
In the current study, the researchers were interested in epigenetic phenomena in which the physical properties or the level of gene expression change, even if the genetic material (the DNA sequence) is not changed. In certain cases, such epigenetic changes can cause traits to be transferred from one parent to the offspring through the sperm or the egg.
Effects of excessive sugar consumption in flies
For example, a previous study showed that male fruit flies that had consumed excessive sugar shortly before mating were more likely to produce offspring with excess weight.
What role does tsRNA play?
Similar studies in mice have shown that small fragments of RNA (the tsRNA) play an important role in these epigenetic phenomena that will appear in the next generation. These RNA fragments are present in unusually large amounts in the sperm of many species, including humans, fruit flies and mice. Their function has not yet been examined in detail. There is speculation that the RNA fragments in the sperm could be involved in epigenetic phenomena. However, it is still too early to determine whether this is also the case in humans.
Does sugar affect RNA fragments in human sperm?
The new study was initiated to determine whether high sugar consumption affects RNA fragments in human sperm. To this end, 15 healthy, non-smoking young men were examined who followed a diet assigned by the scientists for two weeks.
What did the participants eat?
For the first week, the participants ate a normal healthy diet. In the second week, the researchers added a lot of sugar to this diet. The sugar consumed corresponded to about 3.5 liters of sugary lemonade or 450 grams of sweets a day.
Various measurements were carried out
At the beginning of the study, after the first week and after the second week, the quality of the sperm and other indicators of the health of the participants were examined. The research group found that at the start of the study, a third of the participants had low sperm motility. Motility is one of several factors that affect sperm quality. The proportion of people with low sperm motility in the study corresponded to that of the general population.
Sperm motility can be changed quickly through diet
The study shows that sperm motility can be changed in a short time and appears to be closely linked to nutrition. This has important clinical implications. However, it was not clear whether it was the sugar that caused the effect.
RNA fragments changed through diet
It was also found that the small RNA fragments, which are related to the motility of the sperm, had also changed. Further research is now to find out whether there is a connection between male fertility and the RNA fragments in the sperm. The researchers also want to find out whether the RNA code can be used for new diagnostic methods for measuring sperm quality in in vitro fertilization. (as)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
- Daniel Nätt, Unn Kugelberg, Eduard Casas, Elizabeth Nedstrand, Stefan Zalavary et al .: Human sperm displays rapid responses to diet, in PLOS Biology (query: 30.12.2019), PLOS Biology