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Dietary Nutrients in Male Infertility

He was baffled why the results of his semen analysis had been poor.  S, 34, had been bothered by fertility issues for the past 4 years since marriage. His wife, who is 30 years old, had her fertility checks which included physical examination and ultrasound scan of her reproductive organs and they were normal.

S led a healthy lifestyle and exercised regularly. He did not smoke and only drank occasionally. As an engineer, he did not feel “stressed” at work. Clinical examination, blood hormone tests and ultrasound scan of testes were normal. "Doc," he asked," is there anything I can do to help improve the sperm quality and quantity?"


Importance of dietary nutrients

Semen analysis can be affected by various factors, including genetics, lifestyle, and dietary habits. While dietary nutrients alone may not be the sole cause of impaired sperm function, they can play a role in improving sperm health and potentially increase the chances of conception.


Dietary nutrients for sperm

Omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for sperm production and function. Many studies have demonstrated that increased intake of this essential fatty acid significantly improved testosterone levels in men. Testosterone is the hormone which drives sperm production in men.

Omega-3 at 0.5–2 g/day has been shown to have a beneficial effect on sperm motility. Sperm quality could also improve with reduction of oxidative stress to the sperm and less damage to its DNA. The cell membrane of sperm could also be strengthened by taking omega-3.

Sources of omega fatty acids include fatty fish (such as salmon, and sardines), flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and soybeans.

Micronutrients: Micronutrients refer to essential vitamins and minerals required by the body in small amounts for optimal functioning.

Vitamins are organic compounds made by plants and animals whereas minerals are inorganic and they exist in soil or water.

Micronutrient content of each food varies. It is best to eat a balanced diet in order to get sufficient vitamins and minerals.

Vitamins:

Folic acid: Folic acid, also known as vitamin B9, is not only beneficial for female fertility. It has also been linked to improved sperm health and fertility. Foods rich in folic acid include leafy greens (such as spinach and kale), legumes (like lentils and chickpeas), and fortified grains.

Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 has significant effects on sperm function and semen quality. It helps in increasing sperm motility, sperm count and diminishing sperm DNA damage. Fish and red meat are excellent sources of vitamin B12.

Other vitamins that are important for sperm production and function include vitamin C (found in citrus fruits, strawberries, and bell peppers), vitamin E (found in nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils), and vitamin D (obtained from sunlight exposure and fortified foods like dairy products and cereals).

Minerals:

Zinc plays an important role in sperm production and maturation and is involved in testosterone metabolism.  It is crucial in maintaining the structural integrity of sperm cells and for sperm motility. Good sources of zinc include oysters, poultry, beans, nuts, and whole grains.

Selenium is a micronutrient with antioxidant properties that help protect sperm cells from oxidative damage. Adequate selenium levels have been linked to improved sperm motility and morphology. Fish, egg and Brazil nuts are rich in selenium.

Antioxidants: Antioxidants help protect sperm from oxidative stress, which can damage sperm DNA. Foods rich in antioxidants include fruits (such as berries, citrus fruits, and kiwi), vegetables (like spinach and broccoli), nuts (such as almonds and walnuts), and seeds (like flaxseed and chia seeds).

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is an antioxidant that may improve sperm motility and sperm count. It can be found in foods like fish and whole grains.

L-Carnitine: L-Carnitine has been found to positively impact male fertility, even at a relatively low dose of 2 g/day. This supplement enhances sperm parameters, regulates hormone levels and reduces oxidative damage to sperm.

Lycopene, a carotenoid antioxidant found in tomatoes, watermelon, and pink grapefruit, has been associated with improved sperm quality and motility.


Conclusion:  

Dietary nutrients are crucial in maintaining optimal sperm production and function. Ensuring adequate intake of these nutrients through a balanced diet and/or with supplementation can improve chances of conception and help achieve better reproductive outcomes.

S was counselled on the importance of dietary nutrients. He made some dietary modifications and took supplements. He was hopeful that the quality and quantity of sperm would improve with time.

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