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expert reaction to conference abstract about eating nuts and measurements of sperm quality and quantity, being presented at the ESHRE conference (European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology)

A conference abstract presented at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) explores the effect of nut consumption on semen quality and functionality in healthy males.


Prof Allan Pacey, Professor of Andrology, University of Sheffield, said:

“There have been many studies showing that nutritional supplements (or diets) can influence sperm quality.  For example there is quite a lot of data showing that men on ‘good’ diets (i.e lots of fruit and veg) generally have better sperm quality than men on ‘poor’ diets (beef burgers and chips).  This is generally put down to the fact that the former have a better micronutrient intake and more antioxidants than the latter group.  However, I suspect that there isn’t just one thing which causes the effect.

“Therefore, with regard to this study, I am not surprised that a diet rich in nuts is associated with better sperm.  The strength of this study is that it is a randomised controlled trial.  However, I do have a concern about how the trial was conducted.  For example, were the nuts administered as nuts or as a tablet, with the placebo group given nothing or a tablet containing nothing?  It strikes me that if you were randomised to the nut eating arm, and were given nuts, that you would know that.  If this is the case, then the study was not ‘blind’ and there are many confounding factors that could have crept into the equation, such as the men in the nut eating arm knowing that and changing other aspects of their life as well.  Unfortunately from a conference abstract, there are too few details about these confounding variables to be reassured.

“Finally, people need to be aware that there is quite a big difference between improvements in semen quality measured by WHO methods (or DNA damage) and improving the probability of pregnancy in the partners of men eating nuts.  Surely, the latter is what we are most interested in?”


* Abstract title: ‘Effect of nut consumption on semen quality and functionality in healthy males: a randomised controlled trial’ by A. Salas-Huetos et al.  This is a conference talk that will be discussed at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) conference 2018 in Barcelona. There is no paper as this is not published work. 


Declared interests

Prof Allan Pacey: “Chairman of the advisory committee of the UK National External Quality Assurance Schemes in Andrology, Editor in Chief of Human Fertility and Trustee of the Progress Educational Trust (all unpaid).  Also, recent work for the World Health Organisation, British Broadcasting Corporation, Purple Orchid Pharma (paid consultancy with all monies going to University of Sheffield).  Co-applicant on a research grant from the Medical Research Council (ref: MR/M010473/1).”



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