Does A Vegetarian Diet Reduce Fertility in Men?

Adopting a vegetarian or vegan diet has often been associated with a “healthier” dietary regime. However, a new study has highlighted some significant detrimental impacts of a vegetarian/vegan diet on men’s reproductive health. The findings were quite compelling.

Recently, the Journal Fertility & Sterility followed 474 males over a four-year span and analyzed their total sperm count and quality. The results showed that lacto-ovo vegetarians and vegans had significantly lower sperm concentrations (50.7 ± 7.4 M/mL and 51.0 ± 13.1 M/mL, respectively) compared to meat eaters (69.6 ± 3.2 M/mL). Researchers also found that sperm motility was 30% lower in vegan/vegetarian men compared to meat eaters.

Why is this happening?

Experts are throwing around many different hypotheses for the notable difference between vegetarian/vegan and non-vegetarians, including; high intake of soy, lower B12 levels, increased pesticide intake, and lower intake of animal fats.

While we won’t likely know the exact cause of “why” this is happening for some time, it’s important for men to mitigate these negative effects. If you’ve reduced your meat intake out of fear it is “bad” for you… stop! Meat is the most nutrient dense food, choose a wide variety of wild fish, free run chicken, grass-fed beef, game meats to ensure you have adequate cholesterol levels, key building blocks for all steroid hormones (i.e. testosterone) and thus fertility. Remember; when you eat meat you must always include veggies as well. How many? Aim for one-two “fists” worth per meal (equal to your relative hand size.)

If you’re a vegan and vegetarian and don’t want to add some meat to your regime, then reduce your tofu intake and switch over to tempeh. Fermented tofu or tempeh does not exert the same negative effects on estrogen levels in males. Also, you can add whey protein isolate, branched-chain amino acids, and/or creatine as a dietary supplement to help promote lean muscle mass and a more anabolic environment in the body, which will promote superior reproductive health.

Whether fertility or better overall health is your goal, keep this new research in mind when deciding on the best dietary approach for promoting your BEST health.

Dr. Marc Bubbs ND, CISSN, CSCS