Nuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and folate, which in other studies have also been found to benefit sperm.
The clinical trial found better sperm in the healthy young men aged 18-35 who supplemented their usual western-style diet with 60 grams/day of mixed almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts.
"We can't yet say that", Dr. Albert Salas-Huetos from the Human Nutrition Unit of the Universitat Rovira i Virgil in Reus, Spain said, "based exclusively on the results of this study". The study lasted for almost four months (14 weeks), after which the researchers compared the sperm quality of both groups.
In industrialised countries this has been attributed to "pollution, smoking, and trends toward a western-style diet".
The group who added nuts to their diet were found to have significant improvement in a number of benchmarks for healthy sperm.
Nuts are dense foods containing many of these nutrients and other phytochemicals.
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Sperm and blood samples were analysed at baseline and after 14 weeks of intervention. For the analysis, the researchers recorded not only the quality of the sperm but also the changes that occurred in several molecular factors, including sperm DNA fragmentation. This included a 16 percent improvement in sperm count, a 4 percent improvement in sperm vitality, a 6 percent in sperm motility and a 1 percent improvement in morphology (shape).
"Evidence is accumulating in the literature that healthy lifestyle changes such as following a healthy dietary pattern might help conception", said Dr Albert Salas-Huetos, from the Universitat Rovira i Virgili, in Spain, who led the study.
However, Salas-Huetos said it's impossible for him to be able to recommend nut supplements to men struggling to have children, "based exclusively on the results of this study".
Sperm counts have halved in the western world over the past four decades, which, alongside rising testicular tumours, could be behind plummeting fertility rates and couples' increasing dependency on IVF, according to Professor Niels Skakkebaek from the University of Copenhagen. A handful of nuts every day will go a long way in improving male fertility.
Results further suggest a handful of nuts a day reduces sperm's DNA damage, which can cause male infertility.
According to Salas-Huetos one of the limitations of the study was the inclusion of healthy males with normal fertility.