When news hit recently that eating bacon may be bad for your sperm, we were bummed. (After all, Men's Health editors love bacon.)
But after digging into the actual research, we realized our BLTs (and swimmers) are probably safe -- for now.
First, some background: Researchers at Harvard University recruited men who were having trouble getting their wives pregnant, then asked them questions about their diets. The guys who ate between 2.5 and 19.5 servings of processed red meat a week -- including bacon, hot dogs, burgers and lunch meats such as bologna -- had significantly more damaged sperm than men who ate less than that amount.
While the scientists can't explain the link, they did rule out some of the dietary factors associated with eating processed red meats. "Neither total fat intake nor animal fat explained the sperm damage," says study author Myriam Afeiche, Ph.D. (These 15 Facts You Didn't Know about Your Penis will keep your member healthy and happy.)
In fact, because the survey couldn't pin down a reason why eating bacon cheeseburgers correlated with sperm damage, you probably shouldn't worry about your gonads just yet. "The results of this research are good for raising questions, but not providing answers," says Alan Aragon, M.S., Men's Health's nutrition adviser.
That also means there's no clear connection between processed meat and the infertility the couples in the study were suffering from. "(The researchers) were only looking at one measure of sperm health -- not whether it prevents someone from getting pregnant," says Men's Health's urology adviser Larry Lipshultz, M.D.
Until we know more, here's what you can do: "Keep processed meat to a max of 20 percent of your weekly meat intake," Aragon advises. So if you eat three 4-ounce servings of meat a day, you can eat up to 4 servings of bacon each week. And stock up on more seafood: The study found that guys who ate the most salmon, tuna fish, and bluefish had 34 percent more total sperm. (For more foods that strengthen your swimmers, check out these 12 other Super Sex Foods.)