December 14th, 2015
Bad news for meat lovers: processed meat may be linked to lower fertilization, according to a new study. The study, completed by Dr. Wei Xia, of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston and published online Aug. 5 in Fertility & Sterility, tracked 141 men who were undergoing in vitro fertilization with their partners. Men may want to trade the bacon and sausage in for chicken if they are trying to conceive.
Though doctors have always been aware of a link between diet and fertility, it has been hard to pinpoint exactly what affects reproduction. Similarly, doctors have already warned women that a healthy diet and lifestyle and avoiding certain foods and habits can help fertility, but now there are also recommendations for men.
In the study, researchers asked the men about their diets, specifically how much meat they ate and how much of it was processed. Processed meat includes sausage, bacon, hot dogs, deli meat, pepperoni, salami, and canned meat products. Those who ate the least amount of processed meat (less than 1.5 servings a week) had a 28% better chance of conceiving than men who ate more than 4.3 servings of processed meat a week. Those who ate the most poultry (so likely less processed meat and maintained an overall healthier diet) had a 13% higher fertilization rater than men who ate the least poultry.
Those who ate chicken likely have a healthier overall diet than those who eat sausage and bacon, according to experts:
“Perhaps it is not the meat that is the problem, but the dietary choices that men who eat bacon make. Healthier dietary choices usually correlates with a healthier lifestyle, which may overall increase fertility outcomes,” said Dr. Elizabeth Kavaler, a urology specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
Though the study didn’t prove causation, it would still be advisable to decrease processed meat consumption (both for health reasons and fertility). Eating a healthier diet, including decreased consumption of processed meat, is one of several things men can do prior to fertility treatments to increase chances of pregnancy. Other recommendations include stop smoking, decreasing alcohol consumption, and losing weight. Processed meat also contains chemicals that have been linked to cancer rates which can affect overall health and the production of sperm.
The study did not find a link between total meat consumption and successful fertilization. Good news is that those looking to conceive don’t have to go meatless, just cut back on processed meats.