Dietary fat and semen quality among men attending a fertility clinic

Hum Reprod. 2012 May;27(5):1466-74. doi: 10.1093/humrep/des065. Epub 2012 Mar 13.


Background: The objective of this study was to examine the relation between dietary fats and semen quality parameters.

Methods: Data from 99 men with complete dietary and semen quality data were analyzed. Fatty acid levels in sperm and seminal plasma were measured using gas chromatography in a subgroup of men (n = 23). Linear regression was used to determine associations while adjusting for potential confounders.

Results: Men were primarily Caucasian (89%) with a mean (SD) age of 36.4 (5.3) years; 71% were overweight or obese; and 67% were never smokers. Higher total fat intake was negatively related to total sperm count and concentration. Men in the highest third of total fat intake had 43% (95% confidence interval (CI): 62-14%) lower total sperm count and 38% (95% CI: 58-10%) lower sperm concentration than men in the lowest third (P(trend) = 0.01). This association was driven by intake of saturated fats. Levels of saturated fatty acids in sperm were also negatively related to sperm concentration (r= -0.53), but saturated fat intake was unrelated to sperm levels (r = 0.09). Higher intake of omega-3 polyunsaturated fats was related to a more favorable sperm morphology. Men in the highest third of omega-3 fatty acids had 1.9% (0.4-3.5%) higher normal morphology than men in the lowest third (P(trend) = 0.02).

Conclusions: In this preliminary cross-sectional study, high intake of saturated fats was negatively related to sperm concentration whereas higher intake of omega-3 fats was positively related to sperm morphology. Further, studies with larger samples are now required to confirm these findings.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chromatography, Gas
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dietary Fats*
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Semen / metabolism
  • Semen Analysis
  • Sperm Count*
  • Spermatozoa / metabolism


  • Dietary Fats
  • Fatty Acids