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Want to be parents? Men, drop that Double Down

Men who are ready for offspring may want to ditch the hot dogs, chips and bacon double cheeseburgers. And never mind pork rinds.

Saturated fats can be harmful to sperm, a new study suggests.

So-called "bad" fats lowered both sperm count and quality, researchers found. But men whose diets were rich in omega-3 fatty acids – "good" fats found in fish and plant oils – had more swimmers, Time reports.

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The study involved 99 men in their mid-30s who were part of a research project at the Massachusetts General Hospital Fertility Center. For four and a half years, the men provided sperm samples and answered questions about their diets.

Researchers found that men who ate the most saturated fat had 43 per cent lower total sperm count and 38 per cent lower sperm concentration than men with the lowest intake. (Total sperm count is the total number of sperm in one ejaculation of semen. Sperm concentration is the amount of sperm in a millilitre of semen, Medical News Today reports.)

The study is the first to find a relationship between dietary fat and semen quality.

Study author Jill Attaman, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Dartmouth Medical School, acknowledged the study was small and that 71 per cent of participants were overweight or obese.

But the body mass index levels of the study participants weren't much different from those of typical American men, she said in a statement.

"Although these findings need to be reproduced, adapting these nutritional modifications may not only be beneficial for reproductive health but for global general health as well," she added. "Given the impact infertility has worldwide, many men as well as couples may benefit from such lifestyle changes."

For aspiring dads, the take-home is clear. Laying off junk food and loading up on flaxseed oil and salmon could lead the way to fatherhood.

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Have you made dietary changes to increase your chances of having kids?

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About the Author

Adriana Barton is based in The Globe and Mail’s Vancouver bureau. Her article on growing up with counterculture parents is published in a McGraw-Hill anthology, right after an essay by Margaret Atwood. She wishes her last name didn’t start with B. More

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