A Better Diet for Better Sperm Health
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Simple ways to improve male fertility
If you’re planning to start a family, here’s how to improve your chances of success.
About 2/3 of couples succeed in getting pregnant within six months of starting unprotected sex. However, as many as 1 in 6 couples do not become pregnant within a year.
Although the focus is often on the woman, half of all infertility cases involve the man’s health. Poor sperm quality is often the culprit.
Incredibly, the total number of “little swimmers” (sperm) a man produces has dropped by about half since the 1950s. This means that it can take longer for a couple to become pregnant.
A recent study, for instance, showed 84% of men living in areas with high levels of pollution had damaged sperm. Sperm quality is also reduced by unhealthy diets, obesity, smoking, alcohol, and recreational drugs.
That’s the bad news.
The good news is that improving your diet can improve your sperm health.
For better sperm health, follow a healthy diet
Diets high in processed foods, red meat, saturated fat, and sugar are generally bad for our health. This type of diet is also associated with poor sperm quality (see above image).
By contrast, a healthy diet that includes fish, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables may improve sperm quality and fertility in both men and women.
The Mediterranean diet is one example of a diet that can improve sperm health. A controlled clinical trial showed that men had better sperm quality within four months of switching to a Mediterranean diet.
The power of healthy foods lies in the nutrition they provide. Vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and essential fatty acids are all important for fertility.
Male fertility: which supplements make sense?
In addition to a healthy diet, men may benefit from three types of fertility supplements:
- Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
- Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil)
In a recent clinical study, men with low sperm quality were assigned to a healthy diet and exercise plan. The plan included supplementation with coenzyme Q10 (100 mg/day), omega-3 fatty acids (1 gram/day), and a multivitamin. The men’s sperm quality improved after three months.
Coenzyme Q10, omega-3 fatty acids, and multivitamins may improve sperm health
Coenzyme Q10: Pollution, unhealthy diets, and stress can drain the body’s antioxidant stores and damage sperm. Antioxidant supplements can help correct the imbalance.
CoQ10 is a natural antioxidant found in food. In clinical trials, supplemental CoQ10 (at a dose of 100 to 400 mg/day) significantly improved sperm quality within three to six months.
Omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish are essential for health and fertility in men and women. U.S. guidelines state adults should eat two portions of fish each week for good health. Unfortunately, most of us don’t eat enough fish.
Men who took fish oil for three months had 64% greater semen volumes than men who did not. In a study of infertile men, omega-3 supplementation improved semen quality after eight months. Studies suggest adults need 500 to 1,000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids per day.
Multivitamins: Modern diets are often low in key vitamins and minerals. Adults who do not take dietary supplements have the greatest risks of a deficiency. Thankfully, multivitamins can help men (and women) meet their needs.
Vitamins C, D, E, folic acid, and zinc are especially important for healthy sperm. In men who were infertile due to unknown causes, a daily multivitamin improved sperm numbers and sperm motility after three months.
Fun fact: Men produce sperm every day, but it takes about three months for each batch of sperm to develop. Developing sperm are sensitive to nutrition throughout this time. This explains why it takes at least three months to “see” an effect of supplementation on sperm quality.
In sum, it’s never too soon to plan for a successful pregnancy. Healthy nutrition can strengthen your sperm and boost your chance of co-creating a healthy baby!
The information provided in this article is supported by scientific studies. Here are the citations for those who wish to dig deeper.Click here to see References
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Marina MacDonald, MS, PhD
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