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Eating nuts as part of a regular diet significantly improves the quality and function of human sperm, researchers in Spain found.

During a 14-week randomised clinical trial, 119 healthy and apparently fertile young men ages 18-35 were put into two groups.

One followed their usual western-style diet supplemented with 60 grams – roughly a half cup – of mixed almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts daily.

The other group ate a western- style diet without nuts.

Researchers measured conventional semen parameters and molecular changes, and found the group that ate nuts had improvements in their sperm count, vitality, motility and shape.

Lead researcher Albert Salas-Huetos from the Human Nutrition Unit of the Universitat Rovira i Virgili in Reus, Spain, said the study was set against a background of general decline in the quantity and quality of human sperm in industrialised countries due to “pollution, smoking, and trends toward a western-style diet”.

A Mediterranean diet is rich in fruits, fish, whole grains, legumes and olive oil – and a splash of red wine.

The western-style diet includes red and processed meats, fried foods, high-fat dairy, eggs, butter and sugary drinks.

A half cup of mixed nuts can contain about 400 calories.

There are plenty of causes of problematic sperm production.

Medical causes include swelling of the veins that drain the testicle, infections, tumours, coeliac disease and ejaculation problems.

Overexposure to benzenes, toluene, herbicides, pesticides, organic solvents, painting materials and lead might contribute to low sperm counts, and exposure to x-rays or other radiation might alter sperm production, according to the Mayo Clinic in the United States.

Even frequent use of saunas or hot tubs might temporarily impair sperm count.

And if you are thinking of washing down those nuts with a pint of beer, hold off. Alcohol can be a contributor to low sperm count.

Drug use, tobacco and obesity also play a role, the Mayo Clinic reported.

Salas-Huetos said that the study results cannot be extrapolated to the general population.

But they are consistent with results from other studies that included diets rich in omega-3, antioxidants such as vitamin C and E, selenium, zinc and folate, he said.

“Evidence is accumulating that healthy lifestyle changes such as following a healthy dietary pattern, might help conception – and of course, nuts are a key component of a Mediterranean healthy diet,” he said. – The Philadelphia Inquirer/Tribune News Service

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