Infertility is now a global public health issue affecting 15% of all couples of reproductive age. Male factors are responsible for 25% of these cases, and 40% of couples are affected by mutual issues. Paternal factors have also been found to be causative for up to 40% of all miscarriages, and men’s sperm counts tragically have more than halved over the last 40 years.
Quite frankly, the contributing role of male fertility in the overall assessment of the sub-fertile couple is being commonly overlooked. This is incredibly unfortunate as sperm provide 50% of the chromosomal heritage to the development of a baby, and we now understand that the developing placenta is largely dependent on the expression of healthy genes from these paternal chromosomes. We also know that 1 in 20 Australian men are infertile; 1 in 200 Australian men suffer from low testosterone levels; and 1 in 5 Australian men over the age of 40 have erectile dysfunction, or impotence.
Oxidative Stress, Nutrients and Male Fertility
The impact of oxidative stress on male reproductive health and declining sperm parameters is fast becoming a lively area of research, and is well accepted as a major cause of compromised male reproductive health. Poor sperm function due to oxidative stress may be evidenced by abnormal sperm morphology, poor sperm motility, increased DNA fragmentation and a decreased ability of the sperm to fertilize the egg.
Many well performed clinical trials confirm that antioxidant supplementation can improve sperm quality and the chance of a successful pregnancy for a couple. Antioxidant supplementation of nutrients such as; vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, zinc and coenzyme-Q10 have been found to both protect and reverse damage to sperm, thereby improving both sperm motility and quality. Zinc is also a crucial nutrient necessary for healthy testosterone production, and many studies demonstrate its ability to improve sperm morphology, motility and count.
Recent and well-conducted studies have also explored the powerful role Vitamin D may have in the maturation of sperm, fertilization of the egg and healthy genetic expression.
Unfortunately the impact of folate in male fertility is also too often forgotten. Folate together with B vitamins such as B12 is vital for healthy sperm production and maturation. The concentrations of vitamin B12 and folate in seminal fluid have been found to have an association with both sperm number and sperm function. Many studies have demonstrated B12 levels have been found to be significantly lower in men with a low sperm count and low sperm motility. The intake of supplemental folate and B12 by men has been shown consistently to lower frequency of infertility, lower risk of pregnancy loss, and promote success in fertility treatment.
The herb Tribulus terrestris has been used traditionally as a tonic for male fertility, as its ability to improve sperm quantity and quality is well supported by scientific research.
Sperm cells are very vulnerable to toxins, poor nutrition and oxidative stress for about 100 days and consequently, supplementation and diet and lifestyle changes are recommended for 3-4 months pre - conceptually. We need to remind the fellas about the importance of their diet being just as nutrient dense as that of their partners. Several cross-sectional studies have associated greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet (with abundant fruit, vegetables, nuts, legumes, seafood, olive oil) to a lower prevalence of erectile dysfunction and improved sperm parameters.
Fertility specialists in Spain examined the sperm of 119 healthy young men before and after a 14-week study, during which half were randomly assigned to have 60g of mixed nuts added to their diet each day. At the end of the study, those who had received daily mixed nuts had on average 16% higher sperm counts than those who went without, with more modest improvements seen in the sperm viability, their shape and their swimming prowess. Significant improvements in the quality of the sperm DNA also occurred– this functions as a reminder to encourage the men in your life to have a handful of nuts every day!
We love seeing the fellas here at Darling Health, as too often they find themselves lost or ignored in the fertility conversation. Many men can feel confused and will often ask “what can I do?” And the answer is "a lot!" We must remember that male factor is responsible for 50% of the baby’s life long DNA and potential health.
Amanda Haberecht offers fertility consultations for both individuals, and couples. To enquire, contact reception on: 02 9555 8806 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also book online here.