EATING burgers and chips slashes sperm count even in young, healthy, men, a study suggests.
Researchers analysed semen samples from 2,935 military recruits aged 18 to 20 and quizzed them on their diet.
Those who ate a “Western diet”, with red meat, white bread, sweets and sugary drinks had the lowest sperm count.
And those who ate a healthy, balanced diet, with fish, chicken, fruit and vegetables, and water produced the most.
Fellas on a vegetarian diet fell between the two, the Harvard University boffins found.
Hormone levels indicated irreparable harm may have been caused to the sperm-making cells of blokes with low counts.
And experts warn this may have happened years earlier if they also ate badly as kids.
Our findings support the growing evidence that adhering to generally healthy diet patterns is associated with higher sperm counts
Men who feasted on the most “Western” foods produced 25.6million fewer sperm than those who ate the fewest.
And recruits who conformed most to the “healthy” diet produced 42.8million more than those who conformed least.
Low sperm counts are usually identified at an older age when men attend fertility clinics after difficulties conceiving.
Dr Jorge Chavarro, from Harvard University, said: “Our findings support the growing evidence that adhering to generally healthy diet patterns is associated with higher sperm counts and more favourable markers of sperm function.
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“Young men should know their diet may affect their sperm count.” Sperm expert Prof Allan Pacey, of Sheffield University, said: “This shows the power of diet.” Healthier diets typically contain more antioxidants – substances that protect against cell damage.
The recruits were all having medical exams in Denmark, where military service is compulsory.
The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Vienna, Austria.