Doctors in Italy believe they may have found the secret to boosting male fertility. A handful of nuts.
In 2014, experts at the Azienda Ospedaliera Citta della Salute e della Scienza di Torino, a hospital in Turin, were conducting a study of 100 men which would attempt to prove the theory that consuming as little as seven nuts a day (almonds, walnuts, peanuts and hazelnuts) could have a significant effect on the quality of sperm.
Admittedly, the theory has been around for some time. In 2012, a research team at the University of California published the results of a study which showed that men who consumed 75g of walnuts each day experienced a marked improvement in sperm vitality, motility and morphology.
Their conclusion was that there is a direct link between an increase in the consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids (which exist at high levels in nuts) and an improvement in sperm quality among healthy men eating a western diet.
Like walnuts, almonds are rich with arginine, an amino acid that has been shown to increase sperm production. Peanuts meanwhile contain high levels of zinc, which is associated with an increase in sperm count and motility.
Up to a fifth of young men have a low sperm count, defined as fewer than 20 million sperm per milliliter of semen, and the problem is on the increase. In 1992, a groundbreaking Danish study found that the number of sperm in each milliliter of semen has halved since the mid-20th century, while abnormal sperm is on the rise too. Factors may include diet, lifestyle, a greater exposure to estrogen and chemicals in the environment.
But if the solution is as simple as consuming a handful of nuts, sales of Snickers bars could soon be soaring.