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September 28, 2017

Susan Callahan, Contributing Columnist

We've been closely following the scientific studies that
show that, around the world, both sperm count and sperm
quality are declining.  A recent study from the Icahn
School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New Yorks estimates
that, since the 1970's, sperm counts in Western men have
fallen by 60%. Against that background, men and their
partners are keen to understand what they can do to
boost sperm count.  One of the most promising ideas has
come from several studies that have looked at the effect of
fasting on sperm count. These studies suggest that fasting
actually boosts sperm count significantly. Does fasting in
fact boost sperm count in all cases? How long do you have
to fast to see any improvement in sperm count?

The Evidence That Fasting Boosts Sperm Count

Scientists from two universities in Nigeria looked at the
effects of fasting on sperm count.  The study was
conducted in 2015 by doctors from Nnamdi Azikwe
University and Bingham University.  

This is how the experiment went. The scientists separated
Two groups of 10 lab rats. One group of animals were put
on a controlled fast for 12 hours each day, for 30 days.
The other group was fed well.

At the end of the 30 days, the lab animals were sacrificed
and their sperm counts inventoried.

Though the sperm counts of the two groups of mice were
identical at the start of the experiment, by the end of the
30 days, the sperm count of the mice in the fasting group
was approximately half of those of the well-fed group.

Specifically, the average sperm count of the fasting lab
animals was 26,988,056 while those of the well-fed
groups was 50, 333,333.

Moreover, the prolonged fasting also changed the fertility
of the lab animals in other ways, by lowering the amount
of testosterone. As the study noted "prolonged/severe
caloric restriction (fasting) in male adults may have
impacted circulating testosterone levels, testicular gene
expression, and testicular morphology."

Fasting Affects Men and Women Differently

Studies that have looked at the health effects of men and
women find that both genders benefit in significant ways
from taking breaks from food. Cardiovascular health and
immunity, for example are boosted by fasting

Bu women who fast can experience  negative changes in
their fertility. Prolonged fasting can interrupt menstrual

The Human Studies on Fasting Suggest That It May
Actually Improve Male Sperm Count and Testosterone

Remember that men are not mice. Though fasting in lab
animals lowered testosterone levels, important studies that
have looked at fasting in men have found the opposite.

In 1968, a study from doctors at the Department of
Internal Medicine II, Södersjukhuset, Sweden found that
both obese men and non obese men experience as much
as a 67% increase in the pituitary response and 180% in
testosterone after fasting.  In that study, the one-time
fasts lasted 56 hours.

Why does fasting boost male fertility in this experiment?
There are a few theories. One theory is that, when the
body experiences fasting, it goes into a panic mode. In
evolutionary terms, it would make sense for the body to
marshal all of its resources to boost a man's capacity to
impregnate in times of scarcity. During such times, more
infants would be more likely to die if there is not enough

More Studies Needed

Other than these studies, there have been no studies on
the effects of fasting on sperm count. The most detailed
experiment was the Nigerian study which used lab animals.
In this key area, we need more well-designed, double
blind human studies to reach a reliable conclusion on how
fasting affects sperm count.

For now, the best evidence is that fasting
can change your
testosterone and sperm levels, maybe for the better or
have no effect at all.

In the "no effect at all" category is a study in 1986, from
scientists at King Abdulaziz Hospital in Saudi Arabia,
published in the Archives of Andrology. This study
examined sperm quality and counts among 21 young men
and found that fasting "has no adverse effects on the
fertility of healthy adult men and may even improve the
total sperm count, gonadotrophic hormone levels, and
testosterone levels."

Among men with normal sperm counts before the fast, the
scientists found that sperm counts rose during the 30 day
fast, then fell during the 3 months after the fast.

Looking deeper into the results, we find a paradox. The
levels of live sperm increased after fasting as well as the
levels of unhealthy sperm. As the study noted " total count
and live-sperm percentage seems to be improved during
fasting, the percentage of the weak sperm shows an
elevation, indicating the lack of overall improvement in the
seminal quality";

We are waiting for other universities to conduct follow-up
studies to duplicate or dispute this result.  


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Licorice Candy and Cough Syrup Can Lower Testosterone

Whey Versus Creatine -Which One Is Better?

Why Asian Men Don't Get As Much Prostate Cancer
Going without food for a 56 hours may boost
testosterone and sperm count.
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