Author: Kate Higham
For many couples, navigating the path to parenthood is both complex and, at times, daunting. Though much attention is often centered on a woman's fertility, it's vital to acknowledge the equally pivotal role of male fertility. In fact, male factors contribute to about 40-50% of all infertility cases (1).
Many factors can impact fertility so it’s important to consult with a healthcare provider to get advice that is relevant to you. In this article, we’ll dive deep into the world of nutrition, diet, and male fertility.
Factors affecting male fertility
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), male infertility accounts for about 40-50% of all infertility cases worldwide (2).
So, what influences male fertility? It's a mix: from age and lifestyle to the environment and even our genetic blueprint. Here's a quick primer on the major players in male fertility:
- Sperm count: The number of sperm in semen. Think of this as the number of soldiers in an army. A higher count means more chances of an egg meeting its match!
- Sperm shape (morphology): Refers to the shape of the sperm. Like a well-shaped key fits into a lock, a sperm's shape determines its success in fertilizing an egg.
- Sperm movement (motility): The sperm’s ability to move effectively. Imagine a marathon where the fittest reach the finish line. Similarly, sperm needs to swim swiftly to reach and fertilize the egg.
External factors like stress, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, medical conditions, and certain medications can adversely affect these parameters. But what about diet?
Impact of diet on male fertility
The saying "you are what you eat" isn't just about your waistline; it could impact fertility. What's on your plate today can shape your reproductive health tomorrow.
Here's a simple breakdown:
Sperm quality & quantity: What men eat directly affects their little swimmers. mega-3 fatty acids, commonly found in fish and flaxseeds, can be like a superhero boost as some studies have shown that they can improve sperm motility. (3).
The male reproductive system is particularly susceptible to oxidative stress, primarily attributed to the unique characteristics of sperm cells.
The importance of a healthy diet
Planning a meal? Why not throw in some ingredients that give a boost to your health? Certain foods can be heroes, while others might be sneaky villains.
Add to your plate:
- Fatty fish: Think salmon or sardines, swimming with omega-3 fatty acids.
- Dark chocolate: A sweet treat with a bonus! It's packed with L-arginine, known to amplify sperm count and pump up semen volume. But remember, moderation is key; you don't want a sugar overload.
- Nuts: Specifically, walnuts and almonds are tiny treasures. They're brimming with zinc and vitamin E.
- Fruits and veggies: Think of them as nature's multivitamins. They're chock-full of antioxidants like vitamins C and E and beta-carotene and lycopene
- Limit or avoid:
- Processed meats: Those hot dogs and bacon strips? They might taste great, but it's best to only savor them occasionally.
- Alcohol: A glass of wine or a beer now and then is okay. However, downing too many can impact sperm health. Drink wisely!
- In short, making mindful food choices can be a simple yet impactful step toward ensuring optimal health.
When it comes to your health, there's a team of vital vitamins working behind the scenes:
- Vitamin C: This isn't just good for colds! Acting as an antioxidant, incorporating levels can be beneficial for your general health and play a crucial role in protecting sperm DNA from oxidative damage. (4)
- Vitamin E: Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant and works to boost your immune system. Some studies have shown that vitamin E can impact fertility and further research is ongoing (5).
- Folate and zinc: These two are a dynamic duo and a key part of a healthy diet. Dietary supplements marketed for male fertility often include folic acid and zinc but this is based on limited evidence. Further research is ongoing into this area.
- Selenium: Some studies have shown that selenium may improve semen quality and sperm motility (6).
The good news? These vitamins can be found in a balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, grains, and lean proteins. However, if you're concerned about your intake, supplements might be an option after consulting a healthcare provider.
Take control with LetsGetChecked
Whilst a healthy and balanced diet is important if you are concerned about your fertility, the first step is to consult with your healthcare provider. Sometimes an underlying medical condition might be the cause so it’s important to discuss all concerns with your healthcare provider. They are best placed to provide you with guidance on your next steps. LetsGetChecked offers a wide range of testing options to help you work with your healthcare team to get the answers you need.
- Collect your sample from home: No need for appointments. Simply collect your sample from the comfort of your home.
- Confidential results: Your results will be available from your secure online account within a few days.
- Professional support: Speak with a medical team for guidance on your results.
Important: Always consult with a healthcare professional regarding diet changes or concerns about fertility. This is particularly important if you are experiencing any symptoms or having issues related to fertility.
- National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI): Trends of male factor infertility Online. ncbi.gov
- World Health Organization (WHO): Infertility. Online. who.int
- National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI): The Effect of Omega-3 Fatty Acids, EPA and/or DHA on Male Fertility Online. Ncboi.gov
4.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10460465/#:~:text=Vitamin C%3A Ascorbic acid%2C commonly,count%2C motility%2C and morphology.
- National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) Effect of nut consumption on semen quality and functionality in healthy men. Online. Ncbi.gov
- National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) Influence of Fruit and Vegetable Consumption on Antioxidant Status and Semen Quality. Online. Ncbi.giv
- Harvard School of Public Health: Processed meats may affect male fertility. Online. Hsph.harvard.edu
- National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI): Alcohol and fertility: how much is too much? Online. Ncbi.gov
- American Journal for Men’s Health: The Influence of Vitamin E and Omega-3 Fatty Acids on Reproductive Health. Online. Journals.sagepub.com
- National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI): Zinc is an essential element for male fertility. Online. ncbi.gov