If you haven’t had any at all or you are not done having kids then you might want to hear this.

Young men who eat pizza, chips and burgers may end up with drastically lower sperm counts.

A study of almost 3,000 men, aged only 18 to 39, found those with a ‘Western diet’, including processed meat, pizza, sugary drinks and snacks, have worse quality sperm than those who eat healthily.

Vegetarian men in most cases have higher sperm counts, as do those whose diets include fish and whole grains, making them more fertile.

Men’s diets have worsened over the past few decades, coinciding with a fall in the average sperm count of almost 60 per cent, which some experts have warned could lead to the extinction of the human race.

When couples struggle to have a baby, in a third of cases it is because of problems with sperm, which some men could reverse by improving their lifestyle.


Men with a highly western diet (including processed meat, pizza, sugary drinks and snacks) produced 25.6 million fewer sperm than men whose diet was least like this.

A normal sperm count contains 39 million or more sperm, according to the World Health Organisation.

Dr Jorge Chavarro, who led the study from Harvard, said: ‘We are seeing lower sperm counts and a few men fall below the WHO lower reference limits. This is the largest study to have found this in young men.

‘You would be surprised to see how sensitive young men are to things that might affect sperm count, because it’s a perceived measure of masculinity.’



A low sperm count, known medically as oligozoospermia, occurs when a man has fewer than 15million sperm per millilitre of semen.

Doctors warns a low count makes it harder to conceive naturally, and a lot of it is actually in your hands.

Problems with sperm, including a low sperm count and problems with sperm quality, are quite common

‘They’re a factor in around one in three couples who are struggling to get pregnant,

Problems with sperm quality and quantity can be linked with:

  • Hormone imbalances
  • Genetic problems
  • Having had undescended testicles as a baby
  • Genital infections
  • Previous surgery to the testicles or hernia repairs
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Smoking and using drugs
  • Certain medications

Commenting on the findings, Allan Pacey, professor of andrology at the University of Sheffield, said: ‘This just shows the power of diet to the way that testicles function.

‘It’s almost certain that this is down to an effect that those with the better diets are taking more antioxidants.

‘With pizza, chips and red meat we know that the antioxidant stress goes up and that is bad for sperm.’

Their diet was examined to see how ‘western’ it was, including foods such as pizza, chips, processed and red meat, snacks, sugary drinks and sweets.

Men with the most western diets had the lowest sperm counts.

The best counts were seen in those following a highly ‘prudent’ diet, including fish, chicken, vegetables, fruit and water.

They had an average of 42.8 million more sperm than the men who followed this diet least.

The next best diet for sperm count was a vegetarian diet followed by the Scandinavian one. (wheat based meals, with fish like salmon)

Most previous research on diet and fertility has focused on older couples trying to get pregnant, rather than showing effects on the sperm of healthy young men.

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