Male factor infertility accounts for nearly 50 percent of all infertility cases (1
). Infertility is generally defined as the inability to achieve pregnancy after at least 12 months of unprotected intercourse or after 6 months in women over 35 years of age.
While improving sperm quality is vital in men with less than optimal sperm parameters, it is also equally crucial in cases where the female partner has poor egg quality or conditions that may affect fertility, like polycystic ovary syndrome
(PCOS). Fortunately, there are several evidence-based ways to improve sperm quality. It is commonly known that improving sperm quality may increase chances of conception; however, many people do not realize that sperm quality may also play a role in the risk of miscarriage and/or chromosomal abnormalities. In this article, we’ll review our favorite supplements for male fertility.
Let’s define a few key semen parameters which help determine male fertility:
- Count: the number of sperm per milliliter of semen. As high as 90 percent of male infertility problems are related to sperm count (1).
- Motility: the percentage of sperm that can swim properly toward the egg.
- Morphology: the percentage of sperm with a normal shape and appearance.
Semen analysis is a helpful screening to rule out any major issues in count, motility, or morphology. However, these parameters typically fall short in showing the extent of damage to the DNA inside the sperm. Fortunately, some supplements for male fertility aim to prevent or correct sperm damage and improve overall semen parameters.
Antioxidants like Vitamin C & E
Sperm is highly susceptible to damage. Oxidative stress occurs when your body has an imbalance of antioxidants to free radicals leading to inflammation and damage to sperm cells. Men can reduce oxidative stress by eliminating or reducing exposure to toxins like BPA in plastics and tobacco smoke. Boosting your intake of antioxidants through food and supplements is also crucial to counteract the harmful effects of oxidative stress.
Vitamin C is a well-known antioxidant that may also improve sperm quality. A few studies have found that men who took 1,000 mg of vitamin C per day experienced significant improvements in sperm count, motility, and morphology (2
). Men can also boost vitamin C concentrations by eating more citrus fruit, strawberries, bell peppers, and broccoli.
Vitamin E is another powerful antioxidant that can reduce sperm damage (4
). Sunflower seeds, almonds, and peanuts are great sources of vitamin E.
Zinc is a mineral with many important jobs for overall sperm health. Men require a minimum of about 11 milligrams of zinc per day. Adequate zinc is essential for healthy sperm production, morphology, count, and testosterone production (5
). Taking a zinc supplement may increase sperm motility as well (6
). Food sources of zinc include shellfish, beef, seafood, chicken, cashews, and pumpkin seeds.
Selenium is another essential mineral with protective antioxidant properties. Supplementing with selenium can improve sperm motility, morphology, and may even increase the chances of successful conception (7
). Plus, selenium is required to produce enough active thyroid hormones
. Thyroid health is crucial for both male and female fertility. In fact, hypothyroidism is commonly associated with impaired sperm morphology. Seafood and brazil nuts are two of the richest food sources of selenium.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
CoQ10 is a molecule found in every cell in the body and is critical for energy production inside the mitochondria i.e. the “power plants” of the cell. It is also an antioxidant that can protect mitochondria from damage and oxidative stress. Each single sperm cell has an estimated 50-75 mitochondria, and most men release millions of sperm cells in each ejaculation! However, it only takes one sperm cell to achieve pregnancy. Therefore, even if a man has low sperm count, it is still possible to achieve pregnancy and even more important to optimize sperm quality by enhancing mitochondrial function.
CoQ10 supplements are well-studied and regularly found to increase sperm count, sperm motility, and morphology (6
). Start with 100 mg of CoQ10 per day and take with a meal to enhance absorption.
Omega-3 is a type of healthy fat that can reduce markers of inflammation and oxidative stress while increasing antioxidant levels. Omega-3 fats have also been shown to increase sperm count, motility, and morphology while decreasing the number of sperm with DNA damage (6
). Fish is the best source of two important omega-3 fats: EPA and DHA. An omega-3 supplement should contain EPA and DHA for the best outcomes for male fertility. We often recommend taking around 1,000 mg of total fish oil (EPA + DHA) per day.
You should also strive to include oily fish into your diet about twice per week. The best seafood sources of EPA and DHA with the lowest amounts of mercury include salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and herring.
Carnitine is an amino acid that helps provide energy to sperm cells. Carnitine supplements can improve sperm motility and morphology (6
). Plus, in men who have significant oxidative stress, carnitine may nearly double the number of motile sperm.
N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC)
NAC is another powerful antioxidant that reduces inflammation and oxidative stress. NAC is a precursor to one of the most important antioxidants in the body: glutathione. By restoring the depleted pool of glutathione often caused by oxidative stress and inflammation, NAC may significantly increase sperm count and motility while also reducing sperm damage (10
Mitocore is a vitamin that contains carnitine, NAC and other important nutrients for male fertility.
Sperm is highly susceptible to damage from oxidative stress. However, targeted supplementation can improve male fertility by reducing sperm damage and improving semen parameters.
Supplements for male fertility include:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Omega 3
Our male fertility bundle
includes all of the recommended nutrients for sperm quality. Mitocore is a multivitamin designed to provide key nutrients while optimizing mitochondrial health inside each sperm cell. CoQ10 is crucial for sperm quality and reducing or preventing sperm damage.
Keep in mind, you cannot counteract an unhealthy diet and lifestyle with supplements. For both male and female fertility, it is crucial to build a strong foundation of health by limiting alcohol, managing stress, eliminating tobacco use, and eating a fertility-friendly diet