KEY POINTS

  • Researchers tested the effect of eating tree nuts on sperm DNA methylation
  • They found significant improvement in the sperm quality of men who ate tree nuts for 14 weeks
  • The study provides evidence of how diet can really affect semen health

Over the years, a lot has already been said about how men can improve the quality of their sperm. Now a group of scientists suggests that it can be done by tweaking one's diet and introducing tree nuts in it. In a new study, they found that eating tree nuts for just 14 weeks can cause "significant" changes in sperm DNA.

Semen quality is an important aspect of male fertility. It is affected not only by genetic and environmental factors, but also lifestyle. Diet has a huge impact on it as well, and it's something scientists are only beginning to truly understand.

In their study, published in the journal Andrology, the research team from Universitat Rovira i Virgili and the University of Utah focused on how consuming tree nuts can actually affect sperm DNA.

Their work was built on the findings of a 2018 study, wherein the researchers found that adding tree nuts to a Western-style diet that consists of a lot of red meat, sugars and processed food, can improve sperm quality in healthy men of reproductive age.

In the new study, the researchers specifically tested the sperm DNA methylation of the participants at the baseline and after 14 weeks to determine the possible effect of tree nut consumption.

They conducted a randomized clinical trial in a group of 72 healthy, non-smoking males, who were on a Western-style diet. Among the participants, 48 added 60 grams of nuts such as almonds, walnuts, and hazelnuts to their diets for 14 weeks. The rest, which was the control group, carried on with their normal diet without the supplemental nuts.

The results revealed "significant" differences in the methylation of 36 genomic regions in the group that consumed nuts. 

"(I)n the nut group, we identified 36 genomic regions that were significantly differentially methylated between the baseline and the end of the trial and 97.2% of the regions displayed hypermethylation," the researchers wrote. "We identified no such change in the control group over the same period of time."

The study provides the first evidence of how adding nuts to a Western-style diet can impact sperm DNA methylation, the news release from Universitat Rovira i Virgili said.

"This work demonstrates that there are some sensitive regions of the sperm epigenome that respond to diet, and which can result in changes in sperm and in its ability to fertilize," Albert Salas-Huetos, the study's first author, said in the news release.

The researchers do note the need for further studies to determine the potential health benefits related to their findings, but their study does show how diet can be an important factor in sperm health.

Nuts Pictured: A variety of nuts, including almonds and walnuts. Photo: ExplorerBob - Pixabay