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Male infertility: Does supplemental protein have an impact on sperm count?

ByZarafshan Shiraz, New Delhi
Jun 10, 2023 08:19 PM IST

Concerned about your sperm production or infertility? Male fertility experts reveal whether supplemental protein have an impact on sperm count

A healthy and balanced diet, including adequate protein intake, is generally important for overall reproductive health and sperm production requires an adequate supply of essential amino acids obtained from dietary protein sources but some studies suggest that high protein intake may increase oxidative stress in the body, which can have a negative impact on sperm quality. It is important to note that individual responses to protein intake can vary since factors such as overall diet, lifestyle, genetics and underlying health conditions can influence how protein intake affects sperm count and quality.

Male infertility: Does supplemental protein have an impact on sperm count? (Image by Total Shape from Pixabay)
Male infertility: Does supplemental protein have an impact on sperm count? (Image by Total Shape from Pixabay)

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Priyank Salecha, Senior Consultant- Andrology and Urology at Apollo Fertility in Kondapur, shared, “Supplemental protein can have a potential impact on sperm count. Sperm production is influenced by various factors, including proper nutrition and the availability of essential amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins. Adequate protein intake is crucial for the synthesis of sperm proteins and the maintenance of sperm health.”

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Studies have suggested that a deficiency in dietary protein can lead to reduced sperm count and quality however, it is important to note that excessive protein consumption does not necessarily translate into increased sperm count. Dr Priyank Salecha suggested, “Balance is key, as an excessively high protein intake may disrupt hormonal balance and negatively affect sperm production. Men seeking to optimize their sperm count should aim for a well-rounded diet that includes sources of high-quality protein, such as lean meats, fish, eggs, dairy products, and plant-based proteins. Additionally, consulting a healthcare professional or a fertility specialist can provide personalized guidance based on individual needs and circumstances. While protein intake plays a key role in sperm count, moderation and a balanced diet are essential for maintaining optimal sperm health.”

Bringing her expertise to the same, Dr Nithya Srinivasan of LifeCell India, explained, “Whey is a major supplement protein which is found in dairy products that are high in amino acids. It is a common base for many protein drinks and can help users boost their daily protein consumption, due to the amino acids it contains. However, the available data about its effect on male fertility is mixed. Some studies demonstrate that men who stopped taking protein supplements showed an increase in sperm count, although it is normally considered safe to use protein supplements. Therefore, further studies are warranted, to understand the composition of protein shakes, etc., to determine which ingredient(s) specifically has resulted in lowering sperm concentration.”

She elaborated, “Anabolic steroids, which have been shown to impact sperm count and concentration, are ingredients in some of the available whey protein powders and supplements. These products often also include other additives, which are associated with a negative impact on your health (or fertility), such as added sugars and artificial sweeteners which have been linked to reduced sperm quality. It is, therefore, critical to have a well-balanced diet rich in protein sources, such as lean meats, fish, dairy products, and nuts, rather than depending completely on supplements. Plant-based protein sources, that have been shown by studies to benefit sperm health, include beans, lentils, peas, brown rice, and hemp. A consultation with a healthcare professional, such as a fertility specialist or nutritionist, can provide you with tailored advice about your protein intake and its potential impact on sperm count.”

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