Greater public awareness is increasing on the significance of male fertility, and the interesting research findings show how specific nutrients can support male fertility. The fertility spotlight is commonly focused on women. Women take a great interest in their own reproductive health, as do the media and medical establishment. This can often result in a situation where male fertility is a secondary afterthought for many couples. However NHS figures identify that in 20 % of cases of infertility this is due to low sperm count.
Taking a combined approach to fertility more accurately reflects the ‘dual’ nature of conception and, later, life-long shared parenting. There needs to be good concentrations and count of sperm. Men also need good levels of semen. Semen is a separate fluid to the sperm itself and provides food, energy and acts as a transport mechanism for the sperm itself. Sperm must have a good structure and form (morphology), be able to move/swim correctly (motility) rapidly and be swimming in the right direction. Sperm must also not be clumped together (agglutination).
10 essential nutrients that can play a role:
Zinc contributes to normal fertility and reproduction and contributes to the maintenance of normal testosterone levels in the blood (2). Indeed zinc deficiency has been connected to seminal volume and sperm morphology (form and shape) (3) and therefore a significant decrease in serum zinc levels has also been found in males classified as experiencing a low sperm count (4).
Couples may find it helpful to have their zinc levels checked with a qualified health practitioner, as women are often found to be low in clinical tests. If couples eat similar daily meals, the partner of the women who is low in zinc may also be low himself!
Foods that contain zinc: vegetables, nuts, seeds, meat and fish (especially sea food). You can also try supplementing Zinc the Food-Grown way, with our Food-Grown Zinc Plus formula.
Selenium contributes to normal sperm (6) and can provide improvement in sperm motility (movement) and morphology (how sperm is formed) (7). In short, there has been a direct correlation between seminal concentration and higher selenium levels (8). Growing sperm should be protected from oxidative damage during the 3-month maturation stage.
Foods that contain selenium: Vegetables, high levels are found in Brazil nuts, other nuts and seeds, and meat and fish. Research has shown there has been a decline in the amount of selenium available in soil over the decades and dietary intakes of selenium have fallen over the last 20 years (9) so we all need to make a greater effort to maintain good levels!
Another amino acid, arginine (while not approved by EFSA with a claim for reproductive health) has been researched for sperm health. Arginine does help form aspects of sperm structure essential for initiating spermatic motility processes (13).
Foods that contain arginine: seafood, meat, dairy products and nuts like cashews. Interestingly, veal liver is often credited with being the richest source of arginine from meat!
4. Omega 3
A higher intake of omega-3 fatty acid is associated with healthy sperm – particularly how sperm looks, count and density (15, 16). Mice studies explore how DHA (a type of omega 3 fatty acid found in fish) deficiency may cause the shape of sperm to be a rounded rather than an elongated shape favoured for swimming(17).
You can try supplementing this the Food-Grown way, with our High strength Omega 3 (which combines Omega 3 and nutrients that will work alongside this to allow your body to absorb, direct and utilise it effectively). Eat 2 portions of oily fish per week (salmon, trout, sardines, anchovy, mackerel).
5. CoEnzyme Q10
No EFSA claim for Coenzyme Q10 has been approved. However, Coenzyme Q10 is concentrated in the mid-piece of sperm to provide energy for movement (18). Another study has confirmed that 3 months of Coenzyme Q10 supplementation may improve sperm shape and motility in infertile men (19).
Foods that contain Coenzyme Q10: Meat, oily fish, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, raw peanuts.
1. Immediate things to consider
- Avoid heat around the testicles (no hot baths, regular rowing, regular cycling, or using saunas etc) since sperm production relies on specific temperatures (20) for at least 3 months since it takes around this time to go a new sperm to full maturity.
- Smoking cessation should be recommended and studies show alcohol should be limited.
- A diet rich in a wide variety of colourful antioxidant containing vegetables and fruit. Healthy fats (especially oily fish twice a week) and good sources of protein should be promoted.
2. Environmental oestrogens
- Men should be aware of limiting the hormone oestrogen into their own body to maintain their own male hormone balance.
- Minimise hormone disruption by switching from drinking tap water to filtered water (and investing in hormone-filtering devices).
- Never heat or cook in plastic or use plastic cooking utensils (use stainless steel, wood or crockery instead). Avoid leaving plastic bottles in direct sunlight and then drinking the water.
- Men should avoid regularly eating soya products.
- Men may wish to work with a nutritional therapist or herbalist to undergo a gentle cleansing programme to ensure exogenous oestrogens are effectively metabolised and eliminated from the body by the liver and excreted by the bowel.
If you are looking for a male fertility supplement, ours has been formulated with the latest research in mind and the dose is 2 capsules per day making it easy for most men to integrate it into their health regime. For couples, our Fertility Programme box set includes: Food-Grown® Fertility for Women, Food-Grown® Fertility for Men and our High Strength Omega 3.
For more information you can also read our blog article 'Nourish your fertility from the root up'.
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