Bacon Linked to Low Sperm Count

A study by Harvard researchers says that just one serving of processed meat a day results in lower sperm quality and count.

Bacon image via Shutterstock

Bacon image via Shutterstock

If you’re a woman who is looking to have a child sometime in the near future, you may want to choose a mate that’s a vegetarian or pescetarian.

That’s because a new study from researchers at Harvard Medical School, the Harvard School of Public Health, and Mass. General Hospital says that men who eat just one slice of bacon or sausage link a day (just one!) have 30 percent fewer “normal sperm” than men who don’t. Normal sperm can be defined as sperm with a cell structure that’s the ideal size and shape for conception. Abnormal sperm can contribute to infertility.

The results were presented Monday in Boston at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine’s (ASRM) annual meeting.

The study, which was published in ASRM’s journal, Fertility and Sterility, examined whether meat intake is associated with semen quality. Subfertile (diminished reproductive capacity) men were invited to the Massachusetts General Hospital Fertility Center to participate in an ongoing study of environmental factors and fertility. Semen samples were collected (364 samples from 156 men) and then the men completed a food questionnaire.

Researchers examined the relation between meat intake and semen parameters and adjusted the sample for age, body mass index, abstinence interval, prior fertility evaluation, smoking status, race, caloric intake, and dietary patterns. The results showed that processed meats like bacon were associated with a lower percentage of normal sperm while white meat fish intake was associated with higher percentage of normal sperm. Dark meat fish intake was related to higher total sperm count.

“What brought up our concern is how meat is produced in the United States,” Dr. Jorge Chavarro, one of the researchers, told the Daily News. “Many beef producers give cattle natural or synthetic hormones to stimulate growth, a few days or weeks before the animals are killed. We wanted to examine how these hormones might affect people who consume them.”

The bottom line: Men who eat lots of processed meat like bacon and sausage have a lower sperm quality than men who don’t. Men who have a diet heavy in fish have better sperm and more of it. This means that if you are trying to conceive, it could be beneficial to up your fish intake and remove processed meats from your diet.