Food intake diet and sperm characteristics in a blue zone: a Loma Linda Study

Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 2016 Aug:203:112-5. doi: 10.1016/j.ejogrb.2016.05.043. Epub 2016 May 30.


Objectives: The study examined the effect the life-long vegetarian diet on male fertility and focused on vegetarians living in the Loma Linda blue zone, a demographic area known for life longevity. The objective was to compare sperm characteristics of vegetarian with non-vegetarian males.

Study design: The cross-sectional observational study was based on semen analyses of 474 males from 2009 to 2013. Patients categorized themselves as either life-long lacto-ovo vegetarians (N=26; vegetable diet with dairy and egg products), vegans (N=5; strictly vegetables with no animal products) or non-vegetarians (N=443; no diet restrictions). Sperm quality was assessed using a computer-aided sperm analyzer and strict morphology and chromatin integrity were manually evaluated.

Results: Lacto-ovo vegetarians had lower sperm concentration (50.7±7.4M/mL versus non-vegetarians 69.6±3.2M/mL, mean±S.E.M.). Total motility was lower in the lacto-ovo and vegan groups (33.2±3.8% and 51.8±13.4% respectively) versus non-vegetarians (58.2±1.0%). Vegans had lowest hyperactive motility (0.8±0.7% versus lacto-ovo 5.2±1.2 and non-vegetarians 4.8±0.3%). Sperm strict morphologies were similar for the 3 groups. There were no differences in rapid progression and chromatin integrity.

Conclusions: The study showed that the vegetables-based food intake decreased sperm quality. In particular, a reduction in sperm quality in male factor patients would be clinically significant and would require review. Furthermore, inadequate sperm hyperactivation in vegans suggested compromised membrane calcium selective channels. However, the study results are cautiously interpreted and more corroborative studies are needed.

Keywords: Hyperactivation; Lacto-ovo; Male infertility; Sperm; Vegan; Vegetarian.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ambulatory Care Facilities
  • California
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cell Shape
  • Cell Size
  • Chromatin Assembly and Disassembly
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet / adverse effects*
  • Diet, Vegan / adverse effects*
  • Diet, Vegetarian / adverse effects*
  • Family Characteristics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infertility, Female
  • Infertility, Male / etiology*
  • Infertility, Male / pathology
  • Infertility, Male / prevention & control
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Self Report
  • Semen Analysis
  • Spermatogenesis*
  • Spermatozoa / cytology
  • Spermatozoa / pathology*