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Male infertility, under the microscope

The environment and lifestyle, environmental pollution, tobacco and/or alcohol consumption, lack of physical activity, stress and unhealthy diets are all the parameters that a research group from the Human Nutrition Unit and the Toxicology Laboratory and Environmental Health (TecnATox) of the Rovira i Virgili University (URV) and the Pere Virgili Sanitària Research Institute (IISPV) will put under the microscope to jointly analyze how they affect sperm quality.

“The LedFertyl study (Lifestyle and environmental determinants of seminograms and other male fertility related parameters) aims to investigate the determinants associated with sperm quality, which in turn could be associated, in the future, with the possibility of male infertility,” explains Nancy. Babio, principal investigator and associate professor and researcher at the URV and IISPV-CIBEROBN, to which Albert Salas, co-principal investigator, postdoctoral researcher at the University of Girona, Visiting Scholar at Harvard University and member of CIBEROBN, adds that « we focus on men and not on women because there are very few studies on male infertility, unlike those focused on women, where the focus has been, for the most part, on fertility problems».

The study, which began a year ago –with the main funding from the Carlos III Health Institute, as well as co-financed by the Provincial Council of Tarragona– «started in Reus with the vision of being a multicentre study, since soon It will start in Girona and later it is approved to carry it out in Poland, and more in the long term in Italy and the United States, ”says Nancy Babio.

The lifestyle

Thus, the URV/IISPV research group brings together specialization in the field of nutrition and lifestyle, together with Albert Salas’ specialty in male fertility. “For this reason, the study focuses on an outcome variable such as sperm quality associated with something that we have been studying for a long time, such as obesity, insulin resistance and other associated consequences, and which could have an intimate relationship with sperm quality. », details the main researcher.

Another of the singularities of the LedFertyl study is that “only one cohort of men is studied, a fact that is not very frequent, and much less is the study of sperm quality associated with determinants such as diet and its quality, activity physical activity, smoking and alcoholism”, details Nancy Babio, who adds that “we will also study potential endocrine disruptors, that is, chemical substances capable of altering the hormonal system. The presence of certain persistent or non-persistent contaminants both in the packaging itself, as well as in the food production or preservation process, could also affect reproductive health due to their behavior as endocrine disruptors. On this aspect, the main researcher emphasizes that “fertility has decreased greatly in decades, so we will also assess parameters of environmental contaminants.”

Volunteers

At this time, the research team is recruiting volunteers, 200 are needed to carry out the study, men between 18 and 40 years of reproductive age. Interested persons can send an email to the email address ledfertyl.nutricio@urv.cat indicating in the subject ‘Ledfertyl Recruitment’.

«Due to the pandemic we have adapted the collection of information through questionnaires that can be filled out online, while in a single visit to the Hospital Sant Joan de Reus we will obtain blood samples and collect semen, urine, fecal matter, in addition to weighing, measuring and taking the blood pressure of the volunteers”, explains Nancy Babio, while Albert Salas recalls that “the added value for the volunteer is that they will have an analysis of the seminogram that is not routinely done, in addition to a complete analysis of blood”.

More specifically, from the seminogram, the co-investigator of the LedFertyl study points out that “it is used to evaluate sperm quality, that is, sperm concentration and count, vitality (alive or dead), morphology (abnormal or normal) and motility (if they move and what is the type of movement, i.e. fast progressive, slow progressive or moving but not progressing)».

recommendations

The research is based on the initial hypothesis that “a good lifestyle is associated with better sperm quality.” In fact, Nancy Babio points out that “a study published in 2018 by a research group led by Albert Salas showed in a group of volunteers that the consumption of nuts significantly improved the number of sperm, sperm vitality, as well as motility and sperm morphology. For all these reasons, Albert Salas concludes that the LedFertyl study “is the beginning of many studies that could contribute to making lifestyle recommendations for men in general to have a better chance of having a healthy child.”

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