Ask the Doc: Can being vegetarian affect sperm health?

Related conditions

Question

Can being vegetarian affect sperm health?

Answer

There is some evidence linking diet to sperm health but there really isn’t a lot that is known for sure.

Vegetarians (especially vegans) may not get as much vitamin B12 from their diets as they need. This vitamin is important for metabolism in the body’s cells and low levels are associated with male infertility. Vitamin B12 supplements were found to have improved sperm counts and sperm quality in several studies.

Soy is a common source of protein for many vegetarians, but it is also high in compounds with oestrogen-like effects, which may affect sperm health. This was suggested as the cause of lower sperm counts and reduced sperm movement in vegetarian men compared to non-vegetarians.

Tim Moss

Biomedical research scientist

Associate Professor Tim Moss has PhD in physiology and more than 20 years’ experience as a biomedical research scientist. Tim stepped away from his successful academic career at the end of 2019, to apply his skills in turning complicated scientific and medical knowledge into information that all people can use to improve their health and wellbeing. Tim has written for crikey.com and Scientific American’s Observations blog, which is far more interesting than his authorship of over 150 academic publications. He has studied science communication at the Alan Alda Centre for Communicating Science in New York, and at the Department of Biological Engineering Communication Lab at MIT in Boston.

Keywords

Healthy eating
Sperm health
Vegetarian

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