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Eating junk food when you’re a teenager could damage your fertility for good – here's how.

Updated: Oct 30, 2019


Male partner had a soft spot for junk food when he was a teenager? This could make it more difficult for you to get pregnant. According to research from Harvard University, when teenagers gorge on fast food, they put their long-term fertility at risk, and limit their chances of having children in the future.

The study, which was presented at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology annual meeting in June 2019, involved 3,000 young men who had completed a fitness assessment for military service. These men completed a dietary questionnaire about their eating habits; in this questionnaire, they were required to disclose their most commonly consumed diet, with the options being:

  1. Western diet (comprising of high-fat and processed foods, such as pizza, potato chips, and red meat) 

  2. Traditional vegetarian diet

  3. “Prudent” diet (comprising of chicken, fish, vegetables, and fruit)

  4. “Smørrebrød” diet (comprising of processed meats, whole grains, cold fish, and dairy)

After crunching the numbers, researchers found that the men with Western diets had a much lower sperm count (and fewer healthy sperm indicators) as compared to the other teenagers. More specifically, men with Western diets tend to have poorer sperm concentration, volume, and motility, and their Sertoli cells were also depleted.

Now, you might be wondering: if the problem lies with processed food, then wouldn’t the situation be easily resolved once these men stop consuming said food? Not quite. 

Researchers found that men who underwent three months of diet change did see an increase in sperm count, but unfortunately, this did nothing to reverse the damage of their Sertoli cells. Sertoli cells help in the production of sperm, and are said to be a key component of men’s fertility. Bearing this in mind, doctors and ob-gyns say that it’s important for everyone to cultivate good eating habits at a young age, instead of only starting to eat a balanced diet in their 20s or 30s. 

The bottom line? If your male partner consumed copious amounts of junk food or processed food as a teenager, chances are that he’s not facing the best odds in the realm of fertility. That said, there are other things that he can do to make up for it… such as making sure that he doesn’t abstain from sex for too long, or ditching his tight underwear for something roomier!

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