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Men, Bacon Might Be Ruining Your Sperm

A recent study has found that men who eat a lot of processed meats have a significantly lower chance of success when undergoing in vitro fertilization with their partners. Sorry, bacon.
Photo via Flickr user Patent and Pantry

If you're a man's man—you know, the kind of Ted Cruz supporter who straps bacon to his semiautomatic weapon—you probably have a long history with processed meat.

Well, we hope you have no plans for extending your bloodline, because bacon and sausage might be killing your chances of reproducing. That's the takeaway from a new study recently published in the medical journal Fertility & Sterility.

The researchers involved were concerned specifically with couples undergoing infertility treatment. They studied 141 men whose female partners underwent in vitro fertilization (IVF) at Massachusetts General Hospital from 2007 to 2014. (Some of those couples employed a technique called intracytoplasmic sperm injection, or ICSI; more on that later.) Using dietary questionnaires, they determined the scope of each man's typical meat intake.


The good news for carnivores: The study found no link between overall meat consumption and successful fertilization, regardless of treatment technique.

The even better news: For men who ate a large amount of poultry, the fertilization rate was 13 percent higher than those who didn't.

The bad news: Men who avoided processed proteins such as sausage, bacon, and canned meat had a 28 percent higher success rate than those who enjoyed their daily rashers.

The silver lining news: Bacon-munching men in couples who used the comparatively more expensive ICSI technique—in which a single sperm is injected into an egg—were just as successful as their processed meat-avoiding counterparts.

While the cause-and-effect chain was not immediately clear to the researchers, it does follow the general blueprint for healthy living that doctors prescribe couples undergoing IVF, which typically suggests that they reduce drinking, stop smoking, and lose weight for maximum potency.

"This study suggests that the type of meat a man consumes may influence his sperm's ability to fertilize an egg," said Dr. Rebecca Sokol, president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, in a news release. "Eating a healthy diet is an easy change to make, and worth making for reproductive health as well as overall health."

CBS News spoke to a urologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City who suggested that processed meats might not be the problem, as omnivores who stick to poultry may be healthier overall.

That doesn't account in for the difference between conventional IVF and ICSI success rates among men who enjoy a a breakfast link with their pan-fried SPAM, but it's still worth considering. Unless you have zero interest in sowing the world with your pork-tainted seed, maybe think about switching to seaweed-based vegan bacon instead.