For couples who are trying to conceive, the main focus on promoting fertility is often on the female partner. Little did we recognize that males can find ways to boost their fertility too. In fact, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) noted that in couples who are having fertility problems, up to 30 percent of infertility is attributed to male factors alone, while around 40 percent is combined factors from both the male and female partner.
Among the least invasive and the easiest ways to boost your fertility is through vitamins that can either be naturally found in food or infused into your diet through supplements. But before you actually buy vitamins or fertility supplements for men, it is best to seek consultation from a fertility doctor and of course, know a bit more information about male fertility.
After all, vitamins and supplements are not miracle solutions.
What Is Male Fertility?
Fertility refers to one’s capability to reproduce naturally. In males, fertility is often determined by the sperm quality, but it can also be affected by a number of factors. The supplements or fertility vitamins for men are often focused on increasing or regulating these factors to help boost the chances of pregnancy.
The factors affecting male fertility are the following:
Sperm count and motility
Sperm count refers to the total number of sperm per ejaculation. The normal range of sperm count is above 39 million on every ejaculation, or otherwise, a sperm concentration of above 15 million per ml. Men who have sperm counts or concentration lower than this range may have difficulties in getting their partner pregnant.
On the other hand, sperm motility is the ability of the sperm cells to swim or move efficiently. This is an important factor in male fertility because sperm cells need to move up the woman’s uterus and fallopian tubes to meet the egg. The chances of pregnancy increase when more than 32 percent of the male partner’s sperm portray progressive motility. Progressive motility refers to the straight and large circular motion of the sperm which is essential in getting through the female’s cervical mucus and successfully fertilizing the egg.
Hormonal levels (Testosterone)
Another major determinant of male fertility is the levels of the male hormone testosterone, but where is this hormone coming from?
The brain releases Gonadotropin releasing hormones that will stimulate the testes to release testosterone. Testosterone will then tell the reproductive organ to produce sperm cells, and thus, is essential in maintaining a healthy sperm count. This is why in males who have low sperm counts, the next factor that doctor’s check is the testosterone levels.
Sex drive or libido
Another factor to take into consideration in male fertility is the libido or sex drive. Sex drive is often associated with the level of testosterone. If the hormonal level is low, it will take a toll on one’s sex drive.
There are certain foods and herbs that are believed to increase the libido and these are called aphrodisiacs.
This refers to the ability of the penis to get and stay erect during a sexual intercourse. Penile erection is greatly influenced by testosterone levels but also relies on other physiological and emotional factors.
Men who have troubles with erection may be experiencing erectile dysfunction or more commonly known as impotence. Though it is entirely different from infertility, impotence can make it difficult or even impossible for men to successfully have an intercourse with his partner and hence, will make is harder for them to conceive.
Vitamins and supplements that may help boost male fertility
There are lots of male fertility vitamins and supplements in the market, but if you still have a rough idea on which ones can really help boost male fertility, here’s a list of vitamins, minerals and other substances that may be worth taking a look at the supplement’s package insert. And better yet, you can naturally get some of these from the food you eat.
Vitamin C and E
Researchers are currently considering the role of Vitamins C and E in male fertility. These potent antioxidants are known to reduce the free radicals in the body, so how can they help with male fertility?
Free radicals are normally found in the body. However, high free radicals can lead to oxidative stress. Once these free radicals reached the extensive levels, they can already be damaging to the cells and for males, that would include their sperm.
In fact, while experts are taking a look at the sperm of men with unexplained infertility, they found a high amount of a certain free radical called reactive oxygen species or ROS. While low levels of these free radicals are essential in the production of sperm, very high levels can already lead to sperm cell destruction.
The direct correlation between male fertility and Vitamins C and E supplements needs more extensive research. However, because of the possible link between sperm cell integrity and ROS, researchers are considering the use of these antioxidants to neutralize the free radicals in males having unexplained infertility.
Vitamin C is believed to protect the sperm cell’s DNA from free radicals and may help improve sperm count and motility. High levels of Vitamin C was also seen in the semen of fertile males. In one study, taking 1000 mg of Vitamin C twice daily for 2 months increased the sperm count and motility as well as reduce the production of deformed sperm cells among infertile men.
Vitamin E may help maintain the integrity of the sperm cell membrane. Some studies also found that it can increase sperm motility.
Vitamins C and E are naturally-occurring antioxidants found in certain fruits and vegetables, but you can also take them as supplements. Since Vitamin C is an important precursor of Vitamin E, supplements that have these antioxidants together may provide the most desirable results.
Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)
Cobalamin is one of the 8 recognized B vitamins. A healthy dose of B vitamins is generally required for growth, development, and metabolism. Specifically, Vitamin B12 is needed for DNA synthesis, as well as protein and fat metabolism.
A 2017 research analysis revealed that Vitamin B12 can enhance sperm count and motility. It can also lower down the fragmentation of sperm cell DNA which is observed to be prevalent among infertile males. Moreover, this B vitamin is found in higher concentrations among fertile men than to those having fertility problems.
The recommended allowance for Vitamin B12 is 2.4 mcg a day. Since this vitamin cannot be produced by the body alone, you’ll need to get it from external sources. Vitamin B12 can naturally be found on animal liver and kidney, beef, sardines, clams, and tuna. It is also a component of the B-complex vitamins that are being sold in the market.
Vitamin D helps maintain several body functions and may play a role in both male and female fertility.
Experts found that lack of Vitamin D is linked with the lower production of testosterone. High levels of Vitamin D is also found to improve sperm motility, but more research is required to establish this link.
In one study, a daily intake of 1000 IU Vitamin D3 helped increase the testosterone levels of men with Vitamin D deficiency in a year.
Carnitine is a naturally-occurring amino acid in the body. Researchers are taking a look at the role of its two famous forms, L-carnitine and acetyl L-carnitine, in helping men with reduced fertility.
L-carnitine’s main function is to help transport fats and convert them into energy, but this amino acid has profound presence in the epididymis, where the sperm cells are stored. L-carnitine seems to protect the destruction of sperm from external sources such as heat and internal sources like a decrease in testosterone levels.
In one study, experimental doses of L-carnitine and its derivative, acetyl L-carnitine were found to improve sperm motility, vitality, and concentration. The test dosage ranges from 1 to 4 grams of single or combined doses of both forms of carnitine.
Given these facts, L-carnitine maybe something to consider in the goal of improving the fertility of men. However, before you take any form of carnitine supplement, it is essential to converse with a fertility doctor first to determine the proper dosage.
Calcium is an essential element in the functioning of cells. It is also found in high concentrations in the prostate gland, seminal vesicles, and epididymis of fertile males. Researchers found that calcium may aid in increasing sperm count and mobility. In one study, calcium deficiency was linked with male infertility.
The recommended daily allowance of calcium is 1000 mg. You can naturally get calcium in your diet, specifically in sardines, cheese, milk, yogurt, soybeans, and tofu.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is also found in certain amounts in the seminal fluid, that’s why it is one of the focus of current studies related to male fertility.
Several studies show that CoQ10 may improve sperm motility and concentration, which are vital factors for the fertility of men. According to researchers, it may be found effective in helping men with unexplained infertility. That said, more research is still needed for its direct relationship on the percentage of pregnancy and live births for couples trying to conceive.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
The omega-3 fatty acids are well-known for their numerous health benefits, but its role in male fertility is currently being discovered. One study found that the supplementation of omega-3 resulted in a higher sperm count and motility due to the increased antioxidant activity in the seminal fluid.
The body can’t naturally produce Omega-3 but you can get them from food sources. Seeds, nuts, oysters, and oily fish like mackerel and salmon are rich sources of Omega-3. For males trying to boost their fertility, Omega-3 from seafood sources may be best explored.
This mineral may not be too commonly heard, but it actually has an important role in both male and female reproductive system.
According to a 2015 study, selenium deficiency is linked with poor semen quality and motility. Being deficient in this mineral also increases the risk of miscarriage.
Selenium is an essential component in the production of sperm cells. Another study found that a daily dose of 50 mcg selenium increased the sperm count, viability, and mobility, as well as the ejaculatory volume of infertile men after 3 months of treatment.
What about fertility pills containing folic acid and zinc?
Folic acid and zinc have been cornerstones for both male and female fertility over the years.
Folic acid is believed to maintain healthy chromosomes in the sperm. Men that are deficient in folic acid may produce sperm with abnormal chromosomes. Though these unhealthy sperm cells may fertilize an egg and get the woman pregnant, they often lead to miscarriage or babies with chromosomal defects.
Likewise, zinc helps in the production of sperm and some previous studies showed a link between zinc deficiency and poor quality of sperm. It is also essential in maintaining many of our normal body functions and immune system.
However, latest research said that supplements containing folic acid and zinc may not produce profound effects on enhancing male fertility. So while their direct effects on male fertility is still being explored, it may be best to stick on their normal daily dietary allowance rather than quickly splurging into supplements.
Men need 400 mg of folic acid daily whether they are trying to get their partners pregnant or not. Folate, a form of folic acid that is naturally found in food, is rich in green and leafy vegetables, beans, citrus fruits, whole grains, or in folate-fortified cereals.
As for zinc, the current daily recommendation for men is 11 mg. The natural sources of zinc include shellfish, red meat, seeds, nuts, and legumes.
Certain vitamins, minerals, and fatty and amino acids may help boost the fertility of men by increasing their sperm quality and reducing the effects of oxidative stress. These fertility-boosting substances are generally found in food, but if you wish to take them in the form of supplements, you can talk with your doctor about it. Supplements, although generally not harmful, may have untoward side effects if not taken properly. So, it is still best to take these male fertility pills, vitamins, or supplements under the professional guidance of a fertility expert.
This article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Always consult with a doctor or licensed medical professional before making any medical decisions.