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Cheese Consumption May Affect Fertility in Men: Study

Update Date: Oct 24, 2012 01:45 PM EDT

A new study suggests that men who eat three or more slices of cheese a day could be putting their fertility at risk.

According to the findings by researchers from Harvard, even small portions of a full-fat dairy food may significantly affect sperm quality in men.

A portion defined by the study included an ounce of cheese (28g), a teaspoon of cream, a scoop of ice cream or a glass of full-fat milk.

According to the researchers, female hormones that are naturally present in milk may be affecting the fertility in men.

There have been many studies conducted in order to assess how the diet and lifestyle of women affect their fertility and chances of reproducing. However, slowly, there is a shift in focus with evidences that the diet of men and their lifestyle may be interfering with their reproductive capabilities too.  

For the current study, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, U.S., recruited 189 healthy and fit men of normal weight, aged between 19 and 25, and compared their diets.

The participants were required to answer a questionnaire which had questions pertaining to their dairy products, fruit, meat and other types of food intake during a typical week.

Also, the researchers tested the men for their sperm quality, speed and shape, only to find that those who ate three or more portions of full-fat dairy food a day had a sperm quality that was 25 percent poorer than those whose consumption of these products were low.

Lead researcher Myriam Afeiche explained that it could be either the female hormone estrogen in milk that comes from the cow, or pesticides which find their way in to dairy products which could be affecting men's fertility.

"While it has been suggested that full-fat dairy products may negatively affect semen quality, very few studies have actually examined this question directly. The association could be attributed to the high levels of naturally occurring reproductive hormones in commercial dairy products. It is also possible that the presence of other compounds in dairy such as pesticides, chlorinated pollutants, and heavy metals could account for this relation," she said.

However, Dr Allan Pacey, fertility expert at the University of Sheffield and Chairman of the British Fertility Society emphasizes that the findings of this study should not lead to men giving up on dairy products completely. He said that even though the fertility in men may go down, it would not cause a problem of alarming magnitudes.

 "Although it goes down, it doesn't go into the red. A change of that magnitude for a man in a fertility clinic, we wouldn't worry about that. What I would say about diets is we don't understand it well enough. I wouldn't want to scare men out of drinking milk," Pacey added.

The researchers will present their findings this week at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine's annual conference in San Diego, California.

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