The Sperm Diet: Micronutrients and Supplements to Boost Sperm Count, Sperm Motility, and Sperm Morphology
How do Micronutrients Affect my Sperm Health?
Micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals required by your body's various organ systems, including your testicles, to function at their full potential.
Several studies have reported a significant increase in sperm quality and pregnancy rates when the men were supplemented with specific vitamins and micronutrients.
Furthermore, a 2012 study suggests older men with higher intake of certain micronutrients (vitamin C, vitamin E, b-carotene, zinc, and folate) may produce sperm with less DNA damage.
Which Micronutrients Matter for Sperm?
Recent studies suggest these micronutrients are important for healthy sperm production:
Selenium, an essential trace element found mainly in brazil nuts, grains, fish, meat, poultry, and eggs, is critical for sperm structural integrity and to counteract peroxidation. Deficiencies of selenium manifest as lower sperm motility and lower morphology, both of which can be improved via supplementation. The recommended daily intake is 55µg. Caution: excessive selenium intake can be toxic. Brazil nuts contain 68-91µg per nut. The National Institute of Health recommends daily upper limit of 400µg selenium for adult males.
This well-known antioxidant is located inside the cell membrane, where it inhibits free-radical-induced damage and peroxidation. Supplementation of Vitamin E has been shown to improve sperm motility. The combination of selenium with Vitamin E has been shown to work synergistically to improve sperm quality of males diagnosed with asthenoteratospermia or asthenospermia.
NIH recommended daily intake of Vitamin E is 15mg (22IU) for adults.
Omega-3 (EPA and DHA)
Omega-3 are polyunsaturated fatty acids, and EPA and DHA are the two important sub-types. These molecules are fundamental for maintenance of the lipid bilayer in cell membranes including spermatozoa, where lipids ensure fluidity and flexibility - critical aspects for successful fertilization. Higher omega-3 levels were directly correlated with improved sperm motility, concentration, and structure.
Many types of fish are an excellent source of EPA and DHA. Fish oil liquid or capsules makes for a convenient way to consume EPA/DHA daily, while reducing risk of heavy metal overdose that comes with consuming large fish daily.
Suggested daily intake is 1-2 grams per day combined total of EPA+DHA.
Folate (Folic Acid)
Folic acid (aka folate) is a vitamin involved in cell development and is essential for DNA, RNA, and protein synthesis. Alteration of folic acid metabolism has been linked to male subfertility.
In a placebo-controlled study, folic acid and zinc were found to significantly increase sperm concentration and improve morphology.
NIH recommended daily folic acid intake from food is 400mcg for adult males. NIH recommends doubling this amount if consumed from supplements. Sources most rich in folate include dark leafy green vegetables (especially spinach, brussel sprouts, and asparagus), and liver. It is also found in fruit, nuts, beans, peas, seafood, eggs, dairy products, meat, poultry, and grains.
Zinc is a trace mineral essential for normal functioning of the male reproduction system. Zinc is crucial for spermatogenesis since it affects the stability of sperm chromatin and cell membranes. Zinc deficiency has been linked with male sterility and subfertility.
A recent meta-analysis indicated that zinc concentration was significantly lower in infertile men compared to normal controls, and a significant improvement in sperm volume, motility, and morphology occurred following zinc supplementation in infertile males.
NIH recommended daily zinc intake is 11mg for adult males. Sources most rich in zinc include oysters, red meat, and poultry. Other good food sources include beans, nuts, certain types of seafood (such as crab and lobster), whole grains, fortified breakfast cereals, and dairy products
L-Carnitine is highly concentrated in the epididymis (part of the testes) and seminal fluid and is involved in the mitochondrial oxidation of fatty acids. Low levels of L-Carnitine reduce fatty acid within the sperm mitochondria, reducing energy production and sperm motility. Supplementing with L-Carnitine has been shown to result in an improvement in sperm quality and motility.
NIH doesn't yet publish a recommended intake of L-Carnitine. Red meat is especially rich in L-Carnitine, with over 10x the levels of other sources.
Should I Take a Male Fertility Supplement?
If you and your partner are struggling to get pregnant, and you haven't gotten your micronutrients under control, then the short answer is probably yes. A supplement such as FertilAid combined with fish oil, more dark leafy greens, and regular red meat consumption several times per week might be what it takes to cover your micronutrient requirements for optimal sperm.
And don't forget to keep sperm-killing heat under control by using the affordable Underdog male fertility cooling kit.
Getting pregnant is often an odds game, where the successful players leverage science on multiple fronts to tilt the odds in their favor.