Male fertility and in many cases, male vitality is a commonly researched subject online. We will all have seen the vast array of products that make fantastic claims about how they can help increase sperm count or the quality of sperm. Do any of these products and supplements really work and do you need them?
At First Fertility, we encourage both male and female partners to undergo a fertility check if they are experiencing problems conceiving. The male fertility check will identify if there are any underlying issues and if any treatment is recommended. Of course, all procedures that are suggested will be backed by science rather than based on claims designed to sell their products.
Zinc and Folic Acid
Most medical professionals agree that zinc and folic acid are essential for maintaining healthy sperm and a normal sperm count. However, they are present in the food that we consume every day so, if you eat a healthy, well-balanced diet, you should get your recommended daily amount (RDA). Indeed, this is supported by a study which was recently published in JAMA, a medical journal.
In the study, half of the group of 2,380 men took supplements while the other half took a placebo for six months. The results showed that there was no noticeable difference in quality or quantity of sperm between the two groups in their before and after samples. Doctors and nutritionists even said that the claims of benefits were “unfounded” and that the products were a “waste of money”.
D-Aspartic Acid (D-AA) Supplements
Researchers believe that D-AA supplements are beneficial for men who are experiencing fertility problems as they tend to demonstrate lower levels of this naturally occurring amino acid. It is also believed that it may also increase levels of testosterone. An observational study concluded that infertile men who took 2.66 grams of D-AA for three months demonstrated a 30-60% increase in testosterone and an increase in both sperm count and motility by 60-100%.
There is some evidence to suggest that taking a 1,000-mg supplement of vitamin C, twice a day for at least two months may lead to an improvement in semen quality. An observational study in India also claimed that taking 1,000-mg of vitamin C, at least five times a week protected DNA in sperm cells. The suggestion is that vitamin C can help men who have fertility problems caused by oxidative stress.
Men who suffer from a vitamin D deficiency are also likely to display lower levels of testosterone. Taking 3,000 IU of Vitamin D3 daily for a year can increase testosterone levels by 25% and has also been connected to higher levels of motility. However, some of the evidence relating to this is conflicting.
Tribulus terrestris is a medicinal herb which is used to improve libido and erectile dysfunction for centuries. Research has been inconclusive regarding its aphrodisiac qualities, and it does not appear to increase testosterone, so it may just be a placebo effect. Further research is being conducted into the benefits and risks associated with this herb.
Fenugreek is commonly used in cooking and is a well-known medicinal herb. Men who participated in anaerobic exercise four times a week and took 500mg of fenugreek daily demonstrated an increase in testosterone, increased fat loss as well as improved strength. The study was conducted on only a small sample of 30 men. However, a more extensive study was conducted using Testofen, a supplement containing fenugreek extract. Participants took 600mg daily for three months and report improved erectile function and increased libido. Testosterone levels were also reported to be higher.
Originating in central Peru, Maca root is traditionally believed to increase libido and fertility. Some studies have shown that taking between 1.5 and three grams of Maca root for a minimum of three months may increase libido. As the results were self-reported, there is no scientific evidence to support these claims. Similar claims have also been reported regarding its properties for treating erectile dysfunction. Several other assertions have also been made, but far more research is required.
Some studies have been carried out that suggest those males who have lower folate levels may benefit from taking supplements. Low folate levels have been linked with poorer quality of semen.
Other Antioxidant Supplements
Researchers have mixed views on the benefits of antioxidant supplements and male fertility. However, a small majority believe that taking coenzyme C10 supplements may improve semen quality, although further research is needed.
Alternatives to Supplements
While it appears that some supplements may play a role in improving male fertility, one of the most important things that we can all do is lead a healthy lifestyle. Here a few things that you should do:
- Get enough sleep: We must get enough sleep, and between six and nine hours each night is recommended. Lack of or excessive sleep has been linked with poor semen quality
- Take regular exercise: Regular exercise plays a crucial role in improving self-confidence, but from a fertility perspective, it also can increase testosterone. However, doing too much exercise can have the opposite effect although consuming enough zinc can counteract this
- Reduce stress: The stress hormone cortisol is associated with a reduction in testosterone production was well lower libido levels. You should make efforts daily to manage stress such as taking a walk, meditating or spending time with friends
- Limit alcohol intake: Alcohol has been proven to impair semen quality as well as lower levels of testosterone. Drinking in moderation with several alcohol-free days each week is recommended
- Maintain a healthy weight: Obesity is closely linked with infertility in both males and females. However, being underweight can also impinge on hormone production. Maintaining a healthy weight should be a priority
- Avoid tobacco products: Tobacco, and in particular, smoking has been linked to reduced testosterone, lower libido and erectile dysfunction
- Don’t eat too much soy: Soy is something that has been identified as a potential problem with regards to male fertility as it is rich in isoflavones which are known to lower semen quality
If you or your partner are concerned about any fertility issues, at First Fertility, we can offer you all the help, advice and support that you need.