The MANual – Foods to increase male fertility

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Fatherhood

Fatherhood is a stage of life that many men aspire to reach. However, not all men are lucky enough to do so, and often this is due to issues with infertility. Often, interventions need to be undertaken by men to improve the chances of conception – with around 30% of infertility cases caused by problems with the male sperm, it is often a necessary step. While many of these interventions are time-dependent and often undertaken through medical practitioners, a simple, quick and very effective change can be effected through the alteration of diet (in accordance with medical advice). Simply put, better nutrition may help you conceive! Here, we look at nutrients that may help with just that.

Nutrition and male fertility

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are well-known to be beneficial to human health – however, a less well-known fact about these nutrients is that they accumulate in the testes and are involved in increasing sperm formation [1]. As such, they are an obvious choice for improved nutrition within the conception process, with fish oils the best-known source of these nutrients. High omega-3 content fish tend to be oily, and include salmon, tuna and mackerel. However, for those who cannot consume fish, omega-3 fatty acid supplements may be a viable alternative; though, as always, such decisions should be confirmed with a medical practitioner before following through.

Vitamins

Vitamins A & C are an important dietary component to keep sperm healthy and protected from cellular damage and oxidative stress. Citrus fruits, berries, tomatoes and carrots are collectively great sources of these vitamins, and so should be considered for a pre-conception diet, if appropriate to your situation.

Consumption of green, leafy vegetables that are packed full of vitamins such as B9 (folate) is also a key feature of a pre-conception diet, as a deficiency in B9 has been linked to generally poorer quality sperm in men [2]. However, too much folate can also cause issues in conception [2], and so it is important to maintain a balance in nutritional intake, in accordance with health advice.

Finally, vitamin E is important to the pre-conception journey as it improves the reproductive quality of semen [3], as well as protecting sperm from cellular damage (due to the vitamin’s antioxidant nature). Vitamin E can be found in seeds and nuts such as almonds, peanuts and sunflower seeds – however, for those with intolerances to such food, vitamin E can also be found in pumpkin and red bell peppers.

Minerals

Zinc is an important mineral in the fertility process, as it is likely to play a crucial role in sperm & testosterone production [4]. Hence, it is important to maintain appropriate levels of zinc throughout. One of the best natural sources of zinc is the oyster, which is also conveniently believed to be an aphrodisiac and so may be a key element of a pre-conception diet. However, due to food intolerances, seafood is not for everybody, so lean beef, chicken, eggs and dairy are also great sources of zinc to improve fertility. It must be stressed however, that balanced zinc intake is crucial to this process, as too much zinc in the diet can become toxic to the body [4].

Antioxidants

As previously mentioned, consumption of foods rich in antioxidants is an excellent measure to undertake during pre-conception, due to the protection antioxidants provide against sperm cell damage. An excellent source of such antioxidants is green tea, and so consuming green tea regularly may help in conceiving. Because caffeine intake during the conception process may cause fertility issues [5], substituting coffee for green tea may also improve the chances of conceiving. If green tea is not an option, though, you can always try small amounts of dark chocolate, or most berries, to boost antioxidant intake.

References

  1. Safarinejad et al. Asian J Androl. 2012 Jul;14(4):514-5.
  2. Hoek et al. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2020 May;64(9):e1900696.
  3. Keskes-Ammar et al. Arch Androl. 2003 Mar-Apr;49(2):83-94.
  4. Allouche-Fitoussi et al. Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Oct 21;21(20):7796.
  5. Gaskins et al. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2018 Apr;218(4):379-389.
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