Adelaide, July 22: Adelaide researchers are hoping to discover if obese men who want to become fathers can improve the quality of their sperm by changing their diet rather than just losing weight.
The answer could come from a 12-week Diet for Dads Sperm Study, which seeks men willing to try a “nutrient dense” diet and have their sperm checked.
Participants in the study are offered incentives, including Coles-Myer gift cards worth $150.
The study may show that obese men do not actually have to lose weight to improve their sperm — just get on a healthier diet.
The study led by Dr Nicole McPherson and researchers from the Freemason’s Centre for Male Health and Wellbeing at the University of Adelaide, the Robinson Research Institute, CSIRO and SAHMRI aims to test whether current clinical advice to lose weight should be modified to highlight the importance of good nutrition rather than just weight loss.
Dr McPherson said there is ample evidence that obesity is linked to poorer quality sperm, lower sperm counts and increased DNA damage — and when a pregnancy occurs the poor sperm can affect the health of the baby.
“The study is up and running at the moment. All men must be based in Adelaide because we require a baseline appointment and a 12-week follow-up and this cannot be done remotely. The results of the study will be out approximately in a year after recruitment is complete,” she said.
“People expect it is a case of just losing weight and it will fix the problem but it is about understanding the best way to lose weight,” she said.
“We don’t think you even necessarily have to lose weight to increase the health of sperm, it may be done just through diet modification.”
Dr McPherson noted crash diets or poorly supervised weight loss could make the situation worse, resulting in unhealthy sperm and genetic risks to children.
“The evidence suggests it is how you go about losing the weight, not just going on a crash diet or quickly trying to lose weight,” she said.
The study will use a CSIRO-based diet similar to a Mediterranean-style diet — plenty of fruit, vegetables, fish, nuts and legumes, less meat and cutting back on alcohol.
The project aims to recruit 50 men aged 20 to 45, who are non-smokers and have a body mass index of greater than 30.
Men do not need to be actively trying to conceive a child in order to participate.
They will attend a baseline appointment where they will have height, weight and blood pressure measurements taken, give a blood sample, and also produce a semen sample for analysis either at the University of Adelaide clinic or “in the comfort of their own home.”
They will be randomly allocated into either a control or an intervention group and wear a smartwatch for one week to monitor their movement and sleeping patterns.
Both groups will submit a fortnightly food diary and weekly self-weigh, however, the intervention group will have guidance from the study dietitian on food intake.
Measurements will be repeated at 12 weeks, and all participants will be given a $75 gift card at baseline and another $75 gift card at their post-intervention semen analysis in compensation for participating.
Men aged between 18 and 45 with a BMI of 30 or above and a waist circumference greater than 102cm are being sought for the study.
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