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Sober Vegetarians Have Lousy Sperm

Health nuts, beware: new research suggests that sperm are actually more plentiful and active in meat and beer lovers rather than vegetarian non-drinkers.
October 20, 2014, 6:27pm
Foto von Susy Morris via Flickr

Suppose that you wanted to intentionally reproduce, and were trying to improve the health and stamina of the hundreds of millions of baby proto-human tadpoles living in your ballsack. You'd probably imagine tenderly feeding them wheatgrass shots and Fiji water, and generally avoiding lukewarm cans of Natty Ice and double bacon cheeseburgers. Likely using the worn Bible of Common Sense, best-friend-to-hypochondriacs WebMD recommends "limiting alcohol intake" and "eating a healthy diet" to improve sperm health. Also, for kicks, "keep your scrotum cool."

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But new research suggest otherwise. Scientists have recently discovered that sperm are just like us! and actually prefer to subsist on meat and beer, just like the stereotypical male Homo sapiens that harbor them.

Researchers at Loma Linda University Medical School recently completed a four-year study of 467 men and found that vegetarians and vegans had nearly 30 percent fewer sperm per milliliter compared to their meat-eating counterparts (an average of 50 million sperm, versus 70 million). And their sperm were way lazier. While almost 60 percent of meat eaters' sperm were active, it was only about 33 percent for the herbivores. It's not entirely clear why the difference in diets has this effect, but researchers suspect that vegetarians and vegans could be experiencing vitamin B12 deficiencies, or eating soy-rich diets that mimic the effects of increased estrogen levels.

That isn't to say that the vegetarians and vegans were sterile; each ejaculation still typically contains many millions of little swimmers, and you really only need champ one to do the trick and cannonball into that ovum. But their sperm was just noticeably more bogus than that of the carnivores.

A separate study from Harvard had a similar outcome. Its results—which found that men with the highest intake of fruits and vegetables had sperm that was 70 percent crappier and lazier—suggested that the high levels of pesticides in produce could be adversely affecting sperm quality. That being said, the scientists behind it still believe that fruits and veggies contain antioxidants that are beneficial to reproductive health.

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If you were to pick what to wash down your sperm-feed with, a cold pint might be the answer.

At the 70th Annual Meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine—which took place this past weekend in Honolulu, Hawaii—a research group from the University of Rochester revealed that drinkers actually experience better sexual function and lower incidence of impotence than the teetotalling crowd. Another group at the conference from Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital followed 105 men who were going through in-vitro fertilization treatment with their boos, and found that those who drank about a pint of beer each day had a 57 percent chance of achieving a baby through IVF. The sad sober crowd had only a 28 percent success rate.

The Massachusetts General Hospital study, however, was not looking at sperm count, just baby-making success. And, there are some other fairly significant lifestyle differences between drinkers and non-drinkers, so it's possible that those other factors are coming into play and accounting for the (pretty significant) difference.

So while you shouldn't forego an apple a day, rest assured that your sperm are well-fed and lively even if you hit happy hour and get down with some late-night chicken tenders. In fact, the only thing they don't really like is large quantities of coffee. So if you're feeling a little yawny after last night's pint, try not to overdo it on the early morning java.

The science doesn't lie—your nuts apparently aren't health nuts.