Men rarely take expert advice when it comes to boosting fertility shows study
The findings, showed that overall, women were more likely than men to have a healthy diet
Published 16/06/2015 | 12:48
Eating fruit and vegetables could boost the chance of having a baby - but men are much "lazier" than women at taking such advice, researchers have warned.
A major study of more than 1,100 men and women found that those with healthy diets were much more likely to conceive.
Regular consumption of fruit, vegetables and pulses was associated with far higher levels of fertility.
Non-smokers and those who avoided or limited alcohol were also more likely to conceive.
The findings, presented at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology's annual meeting in Lisbon, showed that overall, women were more likely than men to have a healthy diet.
In findings described as "striking and statistically significant" the research found 55 per cent of fertile men consumed fruit five times a week compared with 73 per cent of fertile women.
Fertile women were also more likely than men to eat eggs regularly.
Researcher Eugenio Ventimiglia, from IRCCS Ospedale San Raffaele, Milan, said: "Women are more keen on being careful than men. We have to try to convince men that diet and lifestyle is an issue."
He said men often did not think their own habits would influence the chances of conception, and were reluctant to seek medical advice when struggling with fertility.
"It's always the wife who prompts the investigation," he said. "Men are lazier and are keen to rely on the women."
He said that anyone trying to start a family should adopt a healthy lifestyle in the hope of increasing their chances of success.
Experts said fruits and vegetables appeared to improve sperm quality because they contain anti oxidants, while those eating plenty of fruit and vegetables were less likely to eat fatty foods and red meat, which can reduce fertility.
Allan Pacey, Professor of Andrology, University of Sheffield, said there was now "a wealth of evidence" to show that a good intake of fruit and vegetables could help sperm quality.
But he said men had been given too little advice about the impact of diet on fertility.
"I think most of our pre-conception advice to date has been primarily aimed at women (take your folic acid ..etc) and men have really been missed out of the public health message," he said.
"Men are generally less interested than women in how their diet links to health, and in particular issues of fertility and infertility," he said.
Prof Pacey said men who wanted to start a family should try to get five portions of fresh fruit and vegetables each day.
"When push comes to shove, I think all men inherently know what foods and lifestyle habits are good and which of them are bad," he said. "But sometimes they need to hear it from someone who isn't their partner."
The study compared the daily habits of 1134 men and women who had a baby in the previous 12 months were compared with those of participants who tried and failed to conceive during the same period.
While 65 per cent of fertile study participants ate fruit every day, the figure was just 51 per cent among those suffering from infertility.
In total, 51 per cent of those who had succesfully conceived ate vegetables every day, the figure was just 47.8 per cent among those suffering from infertility.
Those who were fertile were also more likely to eat pulses regularly and less likely to have taken recreational drugs.
Those who conceived were much more likely to have shunned alcohol all together.
Just 42.5 per cent of those who conceived drank alcohol at all, compared with 55.4 per cent of those who failed to conceive. Infertile participants were almost twice as likely to drink heavily than those who were fertile, with 9.1 per cent of those who failed to conceive drinking more than two litres of alcohol a week - compared to 5.5 per cent of those who were fertile.
Coffee drinking was also more common among the infertile, with 90.6 per cent consuming the drink compared with 83.7 per cent of those who had conceived.