Processed meats under attack again

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1327741_17847026It s not enough that processed meats have been accused of causing various sorts of cancer. Now a new study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility and summarized in the Daily News implies that consumption of such foods can damage a man s fertility. So should men abandon their breakfast bacon if they want to become fathers? Not so fast there are some problems with the study that undermine its conclusions.

The authors, led by Dr. M Afeiche of the Harvard School of Public Health, obtained 364 semen samples from 156 men in subfertile couples who came to a Fertility Center for evaluation. They gathered information on the men s diets by means of food frequency questionnaires, and then assessed whether there were significant relationships between sperm quality and quantity and processed meat and fish consumption.

Comparing the processed meat intake of men in the highest versus lowest halves of the group, the investigators found that the former had slightly significantly poorer sperm morphology (shape) than the latter group. Men in the top third of white fish (e.g., halibut, cod) intake had better sperm morphology than those in the lowest third, Also, they found a significant lower sperm count in men who were in the lowest intake group for dark fish (e.g., tuna, salmon and bluefish) compared to men in the highest 25 percent of intake group.

There are several problems with this study. First, these men were already suspected of having fertility problems, so this is a biased selection it should not be assumed that any conclusions based on their characteristics would apply to other men. Second, many comparisons had to have been made on food items listed on the intake questionnaires unless properly corrected, this means that just by chance, some associations would be statistically significant. Third, no mechanism was postulated to explain why light or dark fish would differentially affect sperm count versus sperm morphology.

Based on this study, I doubt that substituting fish for bacon would help a man s fertility commented ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross. In terms of general dietary advice, one should consume any group of food in moderate amounts, and maintain a normal body weight he continued.