Men Fertility: 6 Vitamins and Minerals to Increase Sperm Quality Naturally
As a fertility practitioner, I am often surprised how little is discussed about the importance of nutrients when it comes to men's sperm health and overall fertility. Vitamins and minerals are responsible for helping build and protect the DNA of sperm. They also aid directly in sperm transport, shape, motility and capacitation (ability of sperm to penetrate the egg).
Without optimal nutrient intake, these functions of sperm can suffer and affect pregnancy outcomes even after conception. In fact, research is finding that the quality of DNA within sperm can affect DNA fragmentation even after the egg has started developing into a growing embryo.
1. Calcium: Sperm Guidance
Calcium ensures that sperm can make it to it's end destination. This electrolyte is vital for a process called sperm chemotaxis; this is the process by which calcium helps form an electrical gradient that guides sperm in the right direction.
Women's cervical mucous also contains a specific electrolyte balance that interacts with the chemical gradient provided by semen, which collectively helps ensure the sperm knows where to travel.
Food Tip: Mozzarella and dried figs are two very high sources of dietary calcium
2. Magnesium: Improves Sperm Quality & Prevents Premature Ejaculation
Magnesium is very important. More than 50% of people in the U.S are deficient in this vital micronutrient. This electrolyte ensures proper motility and transport of sperm and plays a direct role in the creation of sperm.
Magnesium also ensures proper ejaculation thanks to it's affect on vascular function. According to several research studies, men who were deficient in magnesium had an increased risk of premature ejaculation. While premature ejaculation does not directly cause infertility, it can result in avoidance of sexual intercourse or be a symptom of hypogonadism, two factors that can indirectly affect fertility, and highlight the importance of adequate magnesium intake.
Food Tip: Pumpkin seeds, spinach, and almonds are each excellent sources of magnesium
3. Zinc: Sperm Morphology & Motility
Low zinc is associated with male infertility in over 20 research studies. Supplementation in these populations improved semen volume, sperm motility, and improved sperm morphology or shape.
However, excess zinc (especially supplemental intake of zinc exceeding over 40mg per day for longer than two weeks) can lead to copper deficiency, another essential trace metal for sperm quality.
Food Tip: Organic red meat, seafood, beans and nuts are great natural sources of zinc
4. Copper: DNA Fragmentation & Creation
Copper serves as a mineral cofactor for some of the most potent antioxidants in the body, which help protect the DNA in sperm. This mineral also plays a substantial role in meiotic and mitotic cell division, a process that is essential for sperm creation and the combining and replication of DNA once an egg is fertilized.
This mineral is found in very high amounts in the sperm and the prostate, reflecting this important role. However, excess amounts of this micronutrient can damage sperm and lead to deficiencies and imbalances between zinc and iron, two deficiencies associated with infertility in men.
It is recommended men consume 900mcg of copper per day. Staying around this range can ensure you do not over-consume copper.
Food Tip: Animal liver, oysters, and shitake mushroom's are great for men's fertility.
5. Selenium: Sperm Protection & Hormone Balance
Selenium is another trace metal that functions similarly to calcium. It is an integral part of an enzyme called superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase, two enzymes that clear damaging compounds from the body that could potentially damage sperm.
The thyroid also uses selenium to make thyroid hormones; deficiency can therefore worsen thyroid function leading to hypogonadism and other fertility-related complications.
This trace mineral is also responsible for making a group of proteins called selenoproteins, which directly aid in sperm creation, motility, transport, and the ability of sperm to uptake nutrients.
It should be noted that selenium toxicity can lead to the deterioration of sperm and have long-lasting detrimental effects, such as the leaching of minerals from the bones and teeth. Most adult men only need 55mcg of selenium per day. The adverse effects of selenium consumption occur when intake exceeds 300-400mcg per day. Brazil nuts are the highest source of selenium in the diet, with one nut providing 70-90mcg of selenium each, plenty enough to meet the average man's daily needs for selenium.
Food Tip: Just 1 brazil nut provides over double the daily needs for selenium.
6. Omega 3: Sperm Shape & Movement
While not a vitamin or mineral, I wanted to include Omega 3 in this article since it plays a very special role when it comes to the shape of sperm.
Omega 3 fatty acids are needed to make the acrosome or the “pointy cap” of sperm responsible for penetrating the egg. It ensures that the head of the sperm has the right fluidity and plasticity to both travel and penetrate the egg.
DHA is the particular type of Omega 3 found in high concentration in the “head of sperm”. Some studies indicate that a deficiency in DHA can halt the biogenesis of the acrosome and affect sperm morphology and, subsequently, male fertility.
Omega 3 also serves as an antioxidant that protects the DNA of sperm from damage.
Food Tip: Salmon is rich the omega 3 DHA, which helps with sperm quality
Are you trying to improve your fertility outcome and sperm quality with diet?
If you are trying to help your partner improve his sperm quality, it may be best to have at least one food source high in each of these nutrients daily. Of course, there are many other nutrients and foods that can improve sperm quality and men’s fertility, but these foods and nutrients can be a great starting place.
Love and health,