The Mediterranean Diet and Erectile Function

Ikarian Diet: Vegetables, legumes and greens, and olive oil.

Ikarian Diet: Vegetables, legumes and greens, and olive oil.

With the New Year comes New Year’s resolutions, and a common resolution for both women and men revolve around losing weight or improving fitness and heath. In fact, the #1 resolution for 2014 was “Lose Weight,” and #5 was “Staying Fit and Healthy”1. But, while more than 40% of Americans make a resolution in the New Year, only about 8% actually keep them, according to Forbes2. If you were one of the many individuals who made a health-focused goal this year (with the aid of a diet), and you have fallen off the wagon, you might just want to get back on—and not just for the sake of swimsuit season. Studies have shown that going on a diet can improve erectile function.

The Mediterranean Diet

Numerous news articles have lauded the effects of the Mediterranean Diet on women’s health, but what about men’s health? It turns out that men who follow the Mediterranean diet experience significant improvement of erectile function3, meaning that this diet can be used to treat ED.

The sexual performance benefits of the Mediterranean Diet are demonstrated by a group of Greeks on the island of Icaria. One-third of the residents of that island live to be over 90, and according to AARP, most Ikarians over 90 are sexually active4.

How to Eat Like an Ikarian

If this diet sounds like your dream come true, it is relatively easy to adopt. The Mediterranean Diet focuses on nuts, fish, veggies, and beans. Here are a few examples of Mediterranean Diet foods to incorporate into your diet:

  • Nuts
  • Legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas)
  • Whole grains
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Olive oil (instead of butter)
  • Herbs and spices (instead of salt)
  • Fish and poultry (instead of red meat)


1. Statistic Brain (2041). New Year’s resolution statistics. Retrieved from

2. Diamond, D. (2013). Just 8% of people achieve their new year’s resolutions. Here’s how they do it. Retrieved from

3. Esposito, K., Ciotola, M., Giugliano, F., De Sio, M., Giugliano, G., D’armiento, M. & Giugliano, D. (2006). Mediterranean diet improves erectile function in subjects with the metabolic syndrome. International Journal of Impotence Research18, 405–410. doi:10.1038/sj.ijir.3901447

4. Buettner, D. (2009). Live more good years. Retrieved from

I Changed My Mind After a Vasectomy—Can I Still Have a Baby?

Father Kissing Baby Girl As They Lie In Bed TogetherYou may have thought you never wanted to have kids, or that you were done growing your family. You were sure of your decision—so sure that you got a vasectomy. But what if your situation has changed? What if you and your partner decide that you want to get pregnant, after all? Luckily, a vasectomy does not need to be the end of the line for your family. There are options you can pursue to make your pregnancy dream a reality.

Sperm Banking

Before your vasectomy, you may have had the opportunity to preserve a sample of your sperm. If you participate in sperm banking, your cryopreserved sperm can be used to impregnate your partner via intrauterine insemination or in vitro fertilization. Even though you’ve had a vasectomy, your genetic material is available for your use, and it can be withdrawn from your sperm bank in a timely manner so that you can begin the process.

Vasectomy Reversal

A vasectomy reversal is a surgical procedure to repair and reconnect the tubes that carry sperm from the testicles into the semen. While this is a complex procedure, the surgery is usually performed as an out-patient procedure, taking between 2 to 4 hours. Patients can return to desk work within three or four days, but they should wait about a month before engaging in sports or strenuous physical activity.

The success of vasectomy reversals is impacted by the type of procedure performed, as well as the length of time that has elapsed since the original vasectomy. Generally, pregnancy success rates after a vasectomy reversal reach over 75%1. If it’s been many years since your vasectomy, it does decrease the likelihood that a vasectomy reversal will successfully restore fertility. Generally, vasectomy reversals are more successful during the first 10 years after the original vasectomy procedure.

Sperm Retrieval

Another option is sperm retrieval. This procedure is the surgical extraction of sperm from the vas deferens, epididymis, or testicular tissue. There are several different methods for sperm retrieval. Sperm extracted through the scrotal skin called percutaneous  sperm retrieval, from an open testis biopsy, or microsurgical sperm retrieval from the epididymal tubules or vas deferens. All these methods are used in conjunction with In Vitro fertilization (IVF) and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). For patients with very poor sperm production microTESE  (microsurgical testicular sperm extraction) is an option. Unfortunately, too little sperm as well as non-moving sperm are obtained by these methods and therefore cannot be used with intrauterine insemination (IUI).

So if you’ve had a vasectomy, but you see kids in your future, you may still have a few opportunities for impregnating your partner. Check out your options. You might be surprised by just how attainable your family goal can be. For additional information please visit

Testicular Self-Exam: It can save your life!


April is Testicular Cancer Awareness Month!

April is Testicular Cancer Awareness Month!

Testicular cancer is one of the most frequently occurring cancers in men ages 18–35, with teens as young as 15 at risk. Testicular self-exams should be a regular part of a man’s wellness routine for early detection.


According to the American Cancer Society1, in the United States in 2014 there will be more cases of testicular cancer than ever:

  • about 8,820 new cases of testicular cancer will be diagnosed.
  • about 380 men will die of testicular cancer

Most of these cases (87%) will occur in young and middle-aged men most often between the ages of 15 and 35. That equals a lifetime chance of developing testicular cancer of roughly 1 in 270. While this cancer is not as common as other types of cancer, it is still a matter of concern for many men. And as with most cancers, early detection can have a significant effect on survival rates. For example, if testicular cancer is identified when it is still localized (the cancer is still only in the testicle), the survival rate is 99%. But if the cancer has a chance to spread, the survival rate is only 74%2. That is why early detection, through testicular self-exam, is so important.  The disease, is able to be found by the patient early, assuring the best prognosis.


testicular-cancer-selfexaminationLuckily, performing a self-exam for testicular cancer is easy….and painless!

  • When to examine: You should perform a testicular self-exam (TSE) once a month, right after a warm bath or shower. The heat from the shower or bath relaxes the skin of the scrotum, making it easier to examine the testicles.
  • How to examine: Place pads of your fingers behind testicles, with your thumbs on top of your testicle. Using slight pressure, gently roll your testicle between your fingers. Check each testicle separately.
  • What to look for: As you roll each testicle between your fingers, check for bumps or lumps along the sides or front. Lumps can range in size, from as small as a grain of rice to a size larger than a marble. Examine the entire surface of the testicle. It should feel completely smooth, without tenderness. In addition to lumps, also look for swelling, discoloration, or changes in testicle size. Note if you experience any pain or ache in your groin or lower abdomen.
  • What is normal: During your examination, you will be able to feel where your epididymis (the tube that caries sperm) connects to the testicle, at the top back part of each testicle. This is normal. You may also notice that one of your testicles is slightly larger than the other, but this is also normal.

Testicular cancer is one of the most curable kinds of cancer. Regular TSEs increase your odds of early detection and successful treatment. If you encounter any testicular irregularities (lumps, tenderness, enlargement, etc.) during a TSE, talk to your Physician immediately.


1. American Cancer Society. (2014). What are the key statistics about testicular cancer? Retrieved from

2. American Cancer Society. (2014). Testicular cancer survival rates. Retrieved from

3. American Cancer Society. (2014).  Testicular Self Exam

4. National Cancer Institute. (2014). Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program

Fertility Preservation in Children: Testicular Stem Cells

An early stage of a zygoteMany of our sperm bank patients are young men recently diagnosed with cancer. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy put these men at risk for permanent infertility as both treatments kill off sperm cells along with cancer cells. Some of these men will eventually regain the ability to produce sperm after the cessation of treatment, but many unfortunately will not. Cryopreserving sperm prior to starting treatment provides adult male cancer patients with a way to preserve their fertility and father their own biological children in the event their sperm production does not rebound after treatment.

However, not all male cancer patients are old enough to produce sperm, so sperm cryopreservation is not an option for fertility preservation.  As a matter of fact, right now there are no proven options available for pre-pubertal males to preserve their fertility, which can be very distressing for their families. Fortunately researchers are working hard to end this dilemma. They are using cutting edge stem cell technologies to develop fertility preservation options for pre-pubertal boys. Our facility, in fact, is one of only a few reproductive tissue banks in the country that has an approved research protocol that allows banking of testicular tissue from pre-pubertal boys for potential use in the future……read on.

The cells of the human body are highly specialized depending on their designated function. This means they have developed specialized structures that enable them to carry out a specific function in the organ system to which they belong. A nerve cell (neuron) has dendrites and an axon to enable it to transmit nerve impulses. A sperm cell has a flagellum (tail) and a lot of mitochondria (energy production) to enable it to move through the male and female reproductive tracts. A stem cell is a cell that has not yet undergone this process of specialization (cell differentiation). Mature sperm start out as spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) in the basement membrane of seminiferous tubules in the testes. Men of all ages, newborn to ninety, have spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs).

Researchers are developing several techniques for generating mature sperm from spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs). This would mean that testis tissue containing SSCs could be surgically extracted from a pre-pubescent male cancer patient prior to the start of his treatment. The tissue would be cryopreserved and stored. At a later point in his life, the tissue would be thawed and the appropriate stem cell therapy would be used to generate mature sperm cells from the SSCs, thus enabling the patient to achieve a pregnancy with his partner. Our approved protocol allows us, after obtaining an informed consent from the patient and/or patient’s parents, to store testicular tissue for potential use of their own stem cells that may be present in the stored tissue.

Researchers are exploring several different methods of using spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) to generate mature sperm. The first is to transplant the SSCs back into the testes when the patient is past puberty. “For this approach, an injection needle is simply inserted under ultrasound guidance through the scrotal skin and testicular parenchyma (working tissue) into the rete testis space”. The transplanted SSCs would regenerate spermatogenesis, producing mature sperm and restoring fertility. This method has been successfully tried on rhesus monkeys. The downside to this technique is it potentially runs the risk of reintroducing cancer cells into the patient, and testis tissue samples typically contain a very small number of SSCs.

The second method being developed by researchers involves culturing spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) before transplanting them into the testes. Culturing means growing cells or tissue under controlled conditions in a laboratory. Culturing SSCs enables researchers to increase the number of SSCs that are transplanted. It also allows researchers to determine whether or not cancer cells are present. Further work is needed to develop the best culturing media and techniques, and to evaluate if the resulting stem cells function properly.

Rather than isolating spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) for transplantation, some researchers are working with grafting testicular tissue under the skin of mice. The SSCs in the grafted tissue mature into sperm that can be retrieved and used in IVF/ICSI. This technique has been successfully tested using fresh testis tissue from newborn pigs, mice, and goats. Trials using cryopreserved tissue have been unsuccessful in producing mature sperm – maturation is arrested at an early stage of sperm development. Obviously this glitch needs to be addressed before testicular tissue grafting is to be a fertility preservation option for pre-pubescent male cancer patients.

Researchers have been able to generate mature sperm from testicular tissue organ culture. Testis tissue from baby mice containing only SSCs has been cultured, generating mature sperm that have been used in ICSI resulting in normal offspring. Cryopreserved and thawed tissue has been successfully cultured to produce mature sperm. Sperm generated from cryopreserved and thawed tissue however has not yet been tested to determine fertility potential (ie can it achieve pregnancy).

I know for some readers, the concept of using stem cell therapies to generate mature sperm may seem “off in the distant future”, but many in the scientific and medical communities would firmly disagree. As discussed earlier, or facility has applied for, and obtained, Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval to cryopreserve and store testis tissue from pre-pubescent male cancer patients, as our director believes that stem cell therapies will exist to enable these patients to use this tissue to father their own biological children, should the need arise.  The future is truly almost here, and the families of pre-pubertal male cancer patients should be informed of the potential fertility preserving benefit of cryopreserving and storing testis tissue prior to starting chemotherapy or radiation treatment.


Valli H, Philips BT, et al. Germline stem cells: toward the regeneration of spermatogenesis. Fertil Steril, Jan 2014; 101 (1): 3-13.

Stem Cell Information, from

New Study about the Likelihood of Fatherhood for Cancer Survivors who used Cryopreservation

Lovely family sitting together on the bedSperm production can be impacted by cancer and its treatment, permanently altering the male body’s reproductive capacity. These treatments are referred to as potentially gonadotoxic treatments. Sperm production can be impaired by both radiation and chemotherapy, and these treatments may alter the DNA of sperm that is produced. Cryopreservation is science’s answer to safeguard male fertility during cancer treatments.

Recently, researchers1 for the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology asked the following question:

  • How does the successful cryopreservation of semen affect the odds of post-treatment fatherhood among Hodgkin lymphoma survivors?

The researchers knew that cryopreservation of semen is the safest and easiest way to ensure that male patients facing cancer treatment can preserve their fertility. But they did not know how many patients are using this option with success.

Using a survey, the researchers polled Hodgkin’s Lymphoma survivors who were treated between 1974 and 2004. Of the 902 respondents, only 334 indicated that they desired to conceive children after treatment, while a total of 363 men opted to preserve their semen prior to treatment.  The decision to preserve semen was reportedly influenced by the patient’s age, treatment period, disease stage, treatment modality, and education level. Of the 363 who preserved their semen, only 78 men chose to use their cryopreserved semen in an attempt to convince children. 48 were successful, a 62% rate of conception using cryopreserved sperm. Many of the survivors (210 men) were able to conceive children after treatment without the aid of cryopreservation.

According to the researchers, “the availability of cryopreserved semen doubled the odds of post-treatment fatherhood.”

While the researchers focused their study on survivors of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, these results illustrate the benefits that cryopreservation of semen can have for patients facing potentially gonadotoxic treatments for any type of cancer. If you are scheduled for treatment that may impact fertility, you can double your chances of post-treatment fatherhood by cryopreserving your sperm prior to treatment.


1) van der Kaaij, M.A.E., van Echten-Arends, J., Heutte, N., Meijnders, P., Abeilard-Lemoisson, E., Spina, M. & Kluin-Nelemans, J.C. (2014). Cryopreservation, semen use and the likelihood of fatherhood in male Hodgkin lymphoma survivors: an EORTC-GELA Lymphoma Group cohort study. Human Reproduction, 29(3), 525–533.