When women are trying to get pregnant, it’s recommended that they take certain prenatal vitamins to help prepare their bodies for pregnancy. But what about men? Will supplementing their diets do anything for male fertility?
Experts don’t have a conclusive ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer yet, but current research seems to suggest that a vitamin – while not unhelpful – probably isn’t necessary for men who are in otherwise good health.
What nutrients are important for male fertility?
Sperm quality is affected by things like age, genetics, hormones, environmental factors, physiology, and diet. Getting the right nutrients can make a huge difference in sperm quality and fertility.
Sperm is created through a process called meiosis, or cell division. Certain nutrients help the body with this process, and so it’s likely that these nutrients are important for sperm quality, as well. These nutrients include:
Vitamins C and E
Vitamins B6 and B12
Sperm quality is also affected by the sperm structure, as sperm have a membrane that’s made up of certain kinds of fatty acids. This makes it important for men to get enough of the nutrients that support fatty acid metabolism.
Who might benefit from a supplement?
Diet has a direct effect on sperm quality, and while it’s always a good idea to eat a balanced diet full of whole foods, this is especially true for men who are trying to conceive. Sometimes, though, people have a hard time getting certain recommended nutrients in their diet. Men who are deficient in any fertility-friendly nutrients might want to consider supplementing their diets to get the proper amounts of different nutrients.
Men who have reduced sperm count or quality might also want to consider taking a nutritional supplement, as it could potentially improve their body’s sperm production. Men with low sperm count or poor quality might want to consider talking to their providers about whether or not a supplement could help.
Supplements could also be helpful for older men who are trying to conceive, as sperm quality decreases with age. One study from the University of California-Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that older men had better sperm quality if they consumed high amounts of micronutrients like vitamin E, vitamin C, folic acid, and zinc. Older men in the study who consumed the highest amounts of these nutrients showed the least amount of sperm damage. This suggests that these nutrients are helpful in decreasing the natural effects of aging on sperm quality and fertility.
Who can probably do without a supplement?
A healthy lifestyle is one of the best things for fertility, and eating a balanced diet is a critical component of good health. It’s pretty likely that men who have a healthy lifestyle, no significant risk factors for fertility, and who eat a balanced diet, probably don’t need to take nutritional supplements for sperm quality.
Ultimately, the decision to take a nutritional supplement is a personal one, and while it almost certainly won’t hurt, it’s not a fertility cure-all. However, older men or men with a nutritional deficiency might especially benefit from taking a supplement. If any of these criteria apply to you or your partner, ask a provider to explain more about whether or not supplements might be a good idea for your chances of conceiving.
Anne Harguth. “Multivitamins and Supplements: to take or not to take?” MayoClinicHealthSystem. Mayo Clinic Health System, Jul 17 2015. Web.
Jani R Jensen. “Fertility herbs: do they enhance fertility?” MayoClinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Aug 6 2015. Web.
Sharon Palmer. “Improving Male Fertility — Research Suggests a Nutrient-Dense Diet May Play an Integral Role.” Today’s Dietitian.15(6) 40. Web. June 2013.
Dan Krotz. “Nutrition Tied to Improved Sperm DNA Quality in Older Men.” BerkeleyLab. University of California, Aug 27 2012. Web.
Thomas E. Schmid, Brenda Eskenazi, Francesco Marchetti, Suzanne Young, Rosana H. Weldon, Adolf Baumgartner, Diana Anderson, Andrew J. Wyrobek. “Micronutrients intake is associated with improved sperm DNA quality in older men.” Fertility and Sterility. 98(5) 1130-1137.e1. Web. Nov 2012.