Nutrients for Male Fertility
The blogposts about Falling Sperm Counts and Diet for Male Fertility show that what we eat and how we live can play a major role in reproductive outcomes. Here we will focus on specific nutrients that have been shown to impact on male fertility.
The importance of antioxidants for male reproductive health cannot be overstated. Between 30% to 80% of male subfertility cases are thought to be due to the damaging effects of oxidative stress on sperm leading to poor semen quality and impaired spermatogenesis (sperm production) (1). A low intake of antioxidant nutrients is associated with poor semen quality in patients attending fertility clinics (2). Oral supplementation with antioxidants has been shown to improve sperm quality (3). A recent Cochrane review determined that men taking antioxidants, including those undergoing assisted reproduction, had a significant increase in live birth rates and pregnancy rates (4).
Antioxidant supplementation may even help minimize some of the deleterious effects of aging on fertility (5).
Antioxidants include vitamins, minerals, amino acids and phytochemicals. Those that have been shown to improve male fertility include:
- Zinc – acts beneficially on sperm quality and reduces sperm DNA damage (6). Zinc is found in pumpkin seeds, tahini, eggs and chicken.
- Folic acid – improves sperm quality (6).aging Good sources include beans, lentils and green vegetables.
- Vitamin C – men given 1,000 mg of vitamin C every other day had improved sperm concentration and mobility (7). Men over the age of 44 with the highest vitamin C intake had approximately 20% less sperm DNA damage compared with older men with the lowest intake, with similar findings for vitamin E and zinc. The older men with the highest intake of these micronutrients showed levels of sperm damage that were similar to those of the younger men (8). Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits, berries, kiwis, goji berries, sweet potatoes and peppers.
- Selenium – Selenium plays a significant role in the functioning of the reproductive system. A deficiency of selenium may cause a deterioration in the quality of semen and in sperm motility (9). Eating a couple of organic Brazil nuts a day is a good way to up your selenium levels.
- Vitamin E significantly improves sperm count (10). Vitamin E is found in olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds and in the cold pressed oils of nuts and seeds.
- Co-enzyme Q10 – significantly improves sperm count (10). CoQ10 is found in found organ meats such as liver, kidneys, and heart, as well as in beef, sardines, mackerel, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, peanuts and soybeans.
- L-carnitine – is an amino acid that has positive effects on sperm motility and morphology (10).
Antioxidants often have a more powerful effect if given in combination. Here are some examples:
- Vitamin C and E – together these reduce sperm DNA damage.
- Subfertile men given a combination of L-carnitine, L-arginine, zinc, vitamin E, glutathione, selenium, coQ10 and folic acid once a day for 3 months benefitted from improved sperm density and motility (11).
- A combination of pine bark extract, L-arginine, L-citrulline and roburins enhanced sperm volume and concentration, motility, vitality and morphology significantly in subfertile men (12).
Probiotics – studies have identified bacteria in semen as being a potential factor in male infertility and semen health. Lactobacillus may help to maintain semen quality as well as counteracting the negative influence of other less desirable bacteria (13). – Probiotics and selenium given together have been found to improve male fertility when it is compromised by a high fat diet or obesity (14).
A Note on Iron and Copper – Iron and copper are essential trace nutrients playing important roles in general health and fertility. However, both elements are highly toxic in large quantities. Excess or deficiency of either element may lead to defective spermatogenesis, reduced libido, and oxidative damage to the testicular tissue and sperm, ultimately leading to fertility impairment (15). It is not advisable to supplement with iron or copper unless blood tests show a deficiency.
See blogposts on Falling Sperm Counts, Diet for Male Fertility and Herbal Help for Male Fertility for more information.
- 1. Walczak-Jedrzejowska R et al. The role of oxidative stress and antioxidants in male fertility. Cent European J Urol. 2013;66(1):60-7.
- 2. Mendiola J et al. A low intake of antioxidant nutrients is associated with poor semen quality in patients attending fertility clinics. Fertil Steril. 2010 Mar 1;93(4):1128-33.
- 3. Showell MG. Antioxidants for male subfertility. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011 Jan 19;(1):CD007411.
- 4. Mora-Esteves C, Shin D. Nutrient supplementation: improving male fertility fourfold. Semin Reprod Med. 2013 Jul;31(4):293-300.
- 5. Belloc S et al. How to overcome male infertility after 40: Influence of paternal age on fertility. Maturitas. 2014 May;78(1):22-9.
- 6. Szostak-Węgierek D. Nutrition and fertility. Med Wieku Rozwoj. 2011 Oct-Dec;15(4):431-6.
- 7. Rafiee B et al. Comparing the Effectiveness of Dietary Vitamin C and Exercise Interventions on Fertility Parameters in Normal Obese Men. Urol J. 2016 Apr 16;13(2):2635-9.
- 8. Schmid TE et al. Micronutrients intake is associated with improved sperm DNA quality in older men. Fertil Steril. 2012 Nov;98(5):1130-7.e1.
- 9. Pieczyńska J et al. The role of selenium in human conception and pregnancy. J Trace Elem Med Biol. 2015 Jan;29:31-8.
- 10. Ahmadi S et al. Antioxidant supplements and semen parameters: An evidence based review. Int J Reprod Biomed (Yazd). 2016 Dec;14(12):729-736.
- 11. Lipovac M. et al. Comparison of the effect of a combination of eight micronutrients versus a standard mono preparation on sperm parameters. Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2016 Dec 9;14(1):84.
- 12. Stanislavov R. et al. Sperm quality in men is improved by supplementation with a combination of L-arginine, L-citrullin, roburins and Pycnogenol. Minerva Urol Nefrol. 2014 Dec;66(4):217-23.
- 13. Weng SL. Bacterial communities in semen from men of infertile couples: metagenomic sequencing reveals relationships of seminal microbiota to semen quality. Plos One 2014 Oct 23;9(10):e110152.
- 14. Ibrahim HA et al. Selenium-enriched probiotics improves murine male fertility compromised by high fat diet. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2012 Jun;147(1-3):251-60.
- 15. Tvrda E et al. Iron and copper in male reproduction: a double-edged sword. J Assist Reprod Genet. 2015 Jan;32(1):3-16.