Fueling male fertility - nutrition and lifestyle guidance for me trying to conceive
BY Lauren Manaker Ms, RDN, LD, CLEC
PAGES 120 total (94 text, remainder references)
Overview of the Book
In a market dominated by advice to females on our fertility, finally here is a fantastic book on male fertility. About time too, given that according to the book, fertility issues are equally distributed between males and females with 40-50% of infertility cases being due to a male factor. I have no doubt that it will still be the female in the relationship buying this book, because that is what us women do. We are proactive, we have Amazon accounts and we are not afraid to use them. But still, it is a gentle shuffle towards equality in the arena of infertility.
Let’s dash through the topics covered in the book, here we go:
Why men should care about fertility, diet and lifestyle factors that affect infertility, obesity, mediterranean diet, antioxidants, trans-fats, omega 3 fatty acids/seafood/nuts, vitamin D, dairy, soy, alcohol, caffeine, exercise/sleep/stress, cigarette smoking, marijuana/cannabis, scrotal temperature, endocrine/hormone disruptors, recommendations.
What you may notice if you have been knocking around the world of female infertility is that the topics covered are identical to the lifestyle issues relevant to women’s fertility. Well, nearly. The classic underpants debate ("tighty-whiteys" or boxers) doesn’t pop up in the pages of our books, and they are the worse for it I would say. You can’t beat an impromptu discussion on knickers.
What does the book aim to do? Well, to quote from the book itself, it will:
Provide an understanding of the man’s role in reproduction, and how his lifestyle plays a role in couples becoming pregnant.
Offer the evidence that supports potential enhancement of male fertility through diet and lifestyle, which may be the missing link of why couples are unsuccessful at conceiving.
Showcase in a simple format the proven, basic changes you can make to your diet and lifestyle to help you achieve your goals based on any specific diagnosis you may have (like low sperm count, etc.). No gimmicks, just science.
Don’t judge a book by it’s cover, size doesn’t matter, and other cliches
The book is tiny. It is so small and thin that it actually fit through our letterbox, rather than being exposed to the elements in our bin shed with the rest of my parcel deliveries. But luckily, men are adamant that size doesn’t matter, so surely they won’t be perturbed by this being a wee one. The small pages contain big text and even bigger paragraph spaces, which allowed me to gallop through the pages like a whippet on crack. It’s light weight, dense on info.
On first seeing the book I was thrown back in time to my law degree days. The cover looks like an academic textbook on the theory of law, except that the background images on my legal books contained fewer crabs, avocados and tomatoes. I was reassured by it’s academic appearance. That is what I wanted. Something educational, based in research, written by an expert in the know. I didn’t want ‘best guesses’ or made up advice. Nobody wants a book full of sperm speculation. Just the research please. And just the research is what you get.
The Author - A nutritionist with nearly as many letters after her name as in it
Lauren Manaker is a registered Dietitian-Nutritionist. I just love nutritionists, especially ones who are obsessed with research. She is based over the pond in the USA (hence the incorrect spelling of fueling - it is missing the second ‘l’. Yankees, hey? Borrow a language, then butcher it). Lauren has a virtual private practice in which she provides evidence based and personalised guidance to people trying to conceive. She knows how to undertake and interpret research and she knows how to write - two qualities you’d expect, but don’t always get, from an expert writing a book on the evidence.
Who is this book for? Couples with male factor infertility, or just wanting to turbo drive their swimmers
Someone with a little more maturity than me. I couldn’t read the following without a giggle - testicular volume, seminal plasma, scrotal temperature, a section on undergarment choices… Stop it! You’re killing me!
On a more serious note, the book addresses all male fertility issues so it would be useful for anyone suffering with:
Oligospermia - Low sperm count (hey, where did everyone go?)
Asthenozoospermia - Poor movement/motility (nah, go on without me, I’m not up for a swim today so I’m just going to rest here for a bit)
Teratozoospermia - Abnormal sperm shape/morphology (Dude, do you have… an extra head? That’s crazy man. I have an extra tail!)
There is also discussion of sperm DNA fragmentation or damage and Hyposermia (low semen volume - but different to low sperm count). So if you are struggling with a male fertility issue, or if you just want swimmers that are in the best shape possible, this practical guide to improving sperm health is likely to be for you.
Best part of the book - the supplement regime
I love a book that allows you to take action and this one is practical with lots to implement. It covers the four most influential lifestyle factors: healthy diet, tobacco and drugs, exercise and stress (sound familiar ladies?). But the best part is the evidence based proposed supplement regime (with recommended daily amounts) for each of the male fertility issues outlined above, as well as a regime to improve assisted fertility treatment outcomes. It is worth buying just for that in my view. Supplements are so ridiculously expensive that you don’t want to (quite literally) piss away your money and gain nothing but extremely expensive wee. You want each and every pill to be worth the money, as well as the time and effort it took to convince your potentially reluctant male partner of the virtues of having a daily supplement regime. I am massively stereotyping there, but am I wrong? Am I?
What did I learn? - the most surprising points for me
Most of the surprising new nuggets of information that I learnt were related to diet. My top 5 takeaway shockers from the book were:
One study found that men that eat the most organ meat have lower sperm motility. Lower? But aren’t organ meats incredibly nutrient dense? How can this be? For anyone following a Weston A Price or paleo sort of a diet, they are the creme de la creme of meats. But the research says what it says… I’m just perplexed.
Couples who ate eight or more servings of seafood a week took less time to achieve pregnancy than couples who ate less fish than this. I’m sorry, did you say eight servings a week? That is more than one seafood dish a day. There are whales that eat less fish than that. Crikey. Whilst we are bantering about fish, the book also recommends being cautious when eating fish with potentially high levels of mercury. Sounds sensible. My first though was, could I accidentally eat too much fish high in mercury? It seems unlikely for this reason…. Tilefish? What on earth is a tilefish? Are you sure that exists and isn’t a fictional species inserted to check if the reader is paying attention? And shark. Where does one even buy shark? Never have I have removed a tin of tuna from my shopping bag only to curse “Damn, I’ve picked up shark again. I wish they wouldn’t put the shark so close to the tuna. Every time. Every bloody time”.
Daily tomato juice is the dogs bollocks for sperm health, improving motility and morphology. Why did I not know this before? Joe loves a bloody Mary when hungover. Maybe that’s something I can work with?
Dairy - ah, dairy, you little trickster. A topic that continues to confuse and bewilder my plights for better health. Apparently the research indicates that low fat dairy, or skimmed milk, is on the whole (no milk pun intended) better for sperm health. This once again goes against my instincts of eating natural foods in their most natural form. I can hear Weston A Price turning in his grave. (He is dead isn’t he?! Yep, just checked. Ages ago. Not even close.)
Exposure to mobile phones is linked to reduced sperm motility and viability. I bloody knew it (slap hand on desk)! I keep my mobile on aeroplane mode all night, which receives a pitying ‘aren’t you ridiculous’ head shake from my husband. But constant exposure isn’t good for us and sperm doesn’t appreciate the lovely warmth of a laptop on the lap or a mobile in the trouser pocket, nestled against the ball sack. Doesn’t appreciate it One. Little. Bit.
Is anything missing from the book?
Fueling Male Fertility doesn’t contain any animal studies. No rats, monkeys, chickens or horses have been harmed in the making of this book. This is an intentional choice by the author, who argues that these animal studies are not the most applicable ones given that male humans are not rats (I’d challenge Lauren to take a look at my dating history and come back to me on that point). The book only contains information based on research concerning humans, which does make sense. But you’d be surprised how many studies there are on improving bovine sperm. Bovine = cattle (if, like me, you had no idea who Mr Bovine was and why everyone keeps testing his sperm). Horse and cattle breeding seems to be big business and the research follows the money. We are different to a cow, for sure, but if there nothing we can learn from bull balls?
How long did it take me to read?
A few hours. This book is deceptively short. I say deceptively because it is packed to the brim with information so although the reader can trot through it quickly, my bet is that the contents would take weeks or even months to fully implement. And even after implementation, the book recommends a 3 month ‘preconception period’ to allow the positive changes to take effect. When it comes to improving fertility, things take time and effort.
Conclusion - Is it worth a read?
Abso-bloody-lutely! It is the best book I have read on sperm health. Admittedly, this is helped by being the only book I’ve read on sperm health. But still, it is an excellent little book. Short, to the point, evidence based, well written and contains practical advice to follow. If the sperm need a little coaxing to find the egg, or there are no male fertility issues but you would like a few million overachievers, then this fabulous little book will help you.