Bacon and Sperm Quality
The bacon world (yes, there is a bacon world) is buzzing with the results of a recent Harvard study that claims eating bacon lowers the quality of sperm. As an outspoken nutritional defender of bacon, I had to put my two cents in here and caution people not to throw the bacon out with the bath water (hardy har har). Most bacon on the market today is highly processed, full of nitrates, and sourced from pigs that have been raised in toxic confinement conditions requiring the use of antibiotics and fed a nutritionally deficient diet full of genetically modified and pesticide-rich soy. There is no question in my mind that this type of bacon, and particularly the nitrates used to preserve it, would harm sperm quality.
However, if you are able to purchase bacon that is nitrate-free and sourced from healthy animals that have been raised on chemical-free pasture (grass), then your bacon may be supplying a shot of beneficial saturated fat, which is important for fertility. Obviously you would need to also eat other foods that help normal cellular production and fertility such as vegetables and seafood. That is just part of being a human being! But “as part of a balanced breakfast”, bacon may still be a helpful thing to eat as long as it’s the right kind.
While doing some quick research to respond to this study, I came across an interesting tidbit on nitrates. I believe it’s mostly the nitrates in processed meats (bacon, sausage, lunch meat) that are harmful to sperm because you need selenium (found in Brazil nuts and seafood) and vitamin E (found in olive oil and avocado) to detoxify nitrates. Interestingly, selenium and vitamin E are both absolutely essential to producing healthy sperm. I found an animal study which showed that testosterone levels (both in blood and semen) were significantly lowered in rabbits when their intake of nitrates was high…and I don’t want to know how they harvest semen from rabbits. The interesting part of the study was that researchers were able to “significantly increase” testosterone and fertility – without reducing nitrate intake – by supplementing those animals with vitamin E, selenium, and vitamin C (found in citrus, broccoli, and organic red bell pepper). My point here is not to say “keep eating low quality bacon, just take supplements with it” but to say that even if you have been eating nitrate-rich foods and are having fertility problems (I always say a prayer for Jared from Subway when I see those commercials and think of how many years he ate nitrate-filled cold cuts for a primary protein source), there is hope for you! The human body is very smart and can recover from almost anything if we give it the right tools. And I’m holding fast to the assertion that one of those tools is an occasional serving of high quality bacon.