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Bacon and other processed meats linked to infertility in men

Eating bacon daily may reduce men's healthy sperm count by 30 per cent. (Thinkstock)Men looking to become fathers might want to ditch that bacon cheeseburger in favour of a fish burger instead, suggests research from Harvard University.

The study looked at 156 men suffering from fertility issues, and concluded that those who ate just a half-portion of processed meat a day, such as a small sausage or a single serving of bacon, had less healthy sperm that those who limited their processed meat intake.

“We found the effect of processed meat intake lowered [sperm] quality and fish raised quality,” lead researcher Dr. Myriam Afeiche tells the Telegraph.

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In addition, researchers found that eating fish, specifically halibut and cod, is associated with producing healthy sperm.

The study is set to be presented this week to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine in Boston, and will add to growing research that links a couple's lifestyle to their ability to conceive. In particular, the men examined in this study were all in relationships that were undergoing in-vitro fertilization treatments.

To determine sperm health, the researchers compared sperm cell size and shape -- men who ate processed meat daily had 30 per cent fewer normal sperm cells than those who limited processed meat intake.

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However, the chairman of the British Fertility Society, Allan Pacey, is cautious of the study's findings, suggesting it is difficult to accurately measure the health of sperm.

“In this instance, the authors link men’s intake of processed meat with the size and shape of their sperm,” Pacey explains. “This may be a real effect, but the study is small and we know that accurately measuring sperm size and shape in the laboratory is fraught with error.”

He says the correlation between a healthy diet and fertility has been established, but that little is known about why and how certain foods would negatively affect sperm.

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Previous research suggests that men whose mothers consumed large quantities of beef during pregnancy have lower sperm counts, likely due to the hormones administered to cattle. And oysters and some varieties of fish, such as tuna, are rich in zinc, which can increase sperm count in men.

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