When it comes to getting pregnant, the attention often falls on women. However, fertility in men is equally as important as women during preconception. In Australia, 1 in 6 couples experience fertility problems. So, what exactly is infertility? Infertility is medically defined as the inability to conceive a child after at least 1 year of regular, unprotected sexual intercourse. This can cause significant emotional and mental stress on couples trying to conceive. In today’s blog post, we shift our focus to male fertility and discuss how nutrition can play an extremely important role in improving men’s infertility.
Male Fertility depends on the production, quality and transport of sperm. Sperm is the male reproductive cell, when sperm fuses with a female’s egg, fertilisation occurs and this marks the conception of a baby. There are several characteristics of male infertility, such as oligospermia (low sperm count), asthenozoospermia (decrease or lack of motility of sperm), and tetrazoospermia (insufficient number of sperm with normal structure). These disorders constitute over 90% of male infertility causes. There are many causes of male infertility – mainly diet, lifestyle, and environmental factors. You may be wondering what does nutrition do with male fertility. Recent research has shown that diet is directly associated with semen quality and then nutrition is a key factor in the treatment of male infertility related to abnormal sperm parameters.
HERE ARE OUR TOP 5 NUTRIENTS FOR MEN’S FERTILITY
Zinc is one of the most important nutrients in male fertility, as it has protective effects on sperm count, quality, and function. Adequate levels of zinc are essential for the production of good quality, functional sperm cells. Additionally, zinc is also required for cells to divide properly and aids in regulating testosterone production. Zinc deficiency may result in production of immature sperm or sperm with chromosomal damage. During preconception, men should aim to have 14mg/day of zinc. Dietary sources of zinc are shellfish such as crab and oysters, poultry, low fat diary, fish, eggs and fortified breakfast cereals.
2. Omega 3
Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Adequate intake of omega-3 has many health benefits on the heart, joints, and mental health. In fertility, omega 3 can improve sperm count, and directly support proper functioning and structure of sperm. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA), the main components of omega 3 have also been shown to increase sperm motility and DNA concentration in semen. The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend 2-3 serves of oily fish per week to ensure adequate omega 3 intake. Other dietary sources of omega 3 include eggs and nuts.
Selenium is another key mineral and antioxidant. It has a protective effect against oxidative stress on sperm DNA, as it can reduce damage to sperm caused by free radicals and improve sperm quality. It also helps increase motility and sperm viability. Dietary sources of selenium are brazil nuts, fish and fortified grains and cereals.
4. Vitamin C
Vitamin C, possibly one of the most well-known types of vitamins, is also one of the most important vitamins for men’s fertility. Its antioxidant properties help to maintain healthy sperm function. Low Vitamin C content in sperm has been associated with sperm dysfunction. Therefore, eat a wide range of fruits (especially citrus fruits) and vegetables to get sufficient Vitamin C in your diet when improving your fertility.
5. Vitamin E
Last but not least, Vitamin E is another nutrient which is so important in men’s fertility. Research has shown that Vitamin E has protective effect against free radical damage. There has been some evidence showing that Vitamin E can help improve sperm count and motility. Since it is a fat-soluble vitamin, be sure to consume enough healthy fats and oils. Healthy sources of Vitamin E are olive oil, sesame seeds, nuts, and green vegetables like broccoli and spinach.
Take home message
When trying to conceive, focus on eating a well-balanced diet as this can provide you with all of those nutrients we discussed above. Don’t forget about your lifestyle too – try to do regular exercise, manage your stress levels and reduce alcohol consumption, as these factors can help improve your fertility.
If you require more individualised advice, get in contact with one of our Accredited Practising Dietitians so we can support you through your fertility journey. You can book into one of our nearest clinics or contact us for online consults.