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    Diet and male fertility: What helps, what hurts

    Papers examining the effects of diet and substance use on male fertility presented at the recently concluded American Society for Reproductive Medicine annual meeting in Honolulu may appear to provide conflicting findings, but an expert in andrology says the observational studies don’t tell the complete story.

    RELATED: Urologists helping drive male-specific centers

    One study found that, while consumption of fruits and vegetables with high levels of pesticide residue can affect sperm quality, in vitro fertilization (IVF) rates are better for those men consuming more fruits and vegetables overall. A second study showed that vegetarians have significantly poorer sperm concentration and motility than non-vegetarians. In a third study, authors reported that infertile men who smoke tobacco are more likely to experience sexual or erectile dysfunction, but those who drink alcohol are less likely to report sexual or erectile problems.

    A fourth paper suggests high male caffeine consumption lowers couples’ chances of achieving a clinical pregnancy, while male alcohol consumption appears to enhance their chances.

    “While the results of some studies presented at the meeting seem to be contradictory, it is important to remember that observational studies often can't tell the whole truth,” said Craig S. Niederberger, MD, of the University of Illinois, Chicago. “A more rigorous scientific approach would include randomly assigning people to diets—what scientists call prospective randomization—and seeing what happens.”

    Ethical considerations would preclude conducting such a study involving toxic substances such as tobacco and pesticides, he pointed out.

    “So we're left with a basic rule of thumb: if it's healthy for other parts of the body, it's probably good for reproduction, too,” said Dr. Niederberger, a member of the Urology Times Editorial Council.

     

    Next: High-residue fruit/vegetable consumption examined

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