Bad news for all you vegetarian dudes out there: Your meatless diet might be improving your overall health, but it’s not doing your boys any favors. Researchers at California’s Loma Linda University Medical School have found that vegetarian men have lower sperm counts and less active sperm than non vegetarians.

According to the four-year study of 443 meat eaters, 26 vegetarians, and 5 vegans, the herbivores had about 50 million sperm per milliliter, whereas omnivores had around 70 million. In addition, only about 30% of veggie guys’ sperm was active, compared to 60% for meat eaters. But the exact reasons for the decreased virility are still unclear.

Photo: Flickr/Anthony Albright

According to the study, meat eaters have higher sperm counts than vegetarians. (Photo: Flickr/Anthony Albright)

One possible explanation is that vegetarians might be deficient in vitamin b12, which would affect the health of their swimmers. Another theory is that they’re replacing meat with soy, which contains phyto-oestrogens that are similar to the hormone oestrogen. A third hypothesis from Harvard University is that eating lots of fruits and vegetables leads to an increase in pesticide consumption, which could affect fertility.

But it’s not all bad. Previous research at Loma Linda University found that vegetarians—specifically men—live longer than their meat-eating counterparts. They also have less instances of heart disease, diabetes, and kidney failure. So vegetarian guys can look forward to longer, healthier lives with fewer kids to put through college.

Photo: Flickr/Stuart Conner

Photo: Flickr/Stuart Conner

And if they are trying to propagate the species, they can always lay off the soy or start eating meat for a while. “It’s hard to tell people not to be vegetarians if they are trying to conceive,” says Dr Eliza Orzylowska, an obstetrician at Loma Linda University Medical Centre. “But I would caution against using soy, at least for 74 days beforehand, which is the time it takes for sperm to be replaced.”

[via The Telegraph]