A new study on male fertility has revealed that health nuts could try nuts for their nuts.
The quality of sperm relies on many factors, not just genetic, but environmental, lifestyle and, particularly, diet, which scientists are only recently beginning to understand.
Now, nutritional researchers have demonstrated in humans for the first time the effects of specific foods on sperm quality — in this case, tree nuts, namely almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts. They found that healthy people on a “Western-style diet,” which is typically high in red meat, processed foods and sugars, who ate those particular nuts enjoyed almost immediate benefits to the genetic profile of their seed.
This new research built upon previous findings pointing to an improvement in sperm overall, including motility and count, for regular nut eaters. However, researchers from the University of Utah and Rovira i Virgili University, in Tarragona, Spain, took that 2018 study a step further, to examine the molecular process behind how nut consumption changes sperm quality over a relatively short term — a process called methylation.
Their randomized clinical trial involved a group of 72 healthy, non-smoking, youthful participants, 48 of whom were asked to integrate 60 grams (just over 2 ounces) of tree nuts per day into their diet for 14 weeks, while the remaining 24 continued their typical lifestyle and Western diet.
At the end of the period, those on the nut-heavy diet showed 36 genomic regions of their sperm DNA that were “significantly differentially methylated” compared to the control group. Of those regions, 97.2% were considered “hypermethylated.”
In a nutshell, a handful of nuts a day could help keep the fertility doc away.
Researchers say their work, now published in the journal Andrology, is the first hard evidence that munching nuts has immediate benefits for many men, particularly those in the Americas.
“This work demonstrates that there are some sensitive regions of the sperm epigenome that respond to diet, and which can result in changes in sperm and in its ability to fertilize,” said lead author Albert Salas-Huetos in a university press release.