London: Difficulty conceiving seems to be on the rise, especially as more couples are trying to conceive at a later stage in their life. While most of the practical advice and emotional support related to infertility appears to be aimed at women, research has shown how male infertility has an equal role to play among couples having difficulty conceiving. Research suggests that in the US about one-third of infertility cases are caused by fertility problems in men.
In the UK one in every seven couples may have difficulty conceiving, which equates to around 3.5 million people. Can diet help with male fertility? Exactly how lifestyle is connected to fertility in men is still a topic of debate and active research, however, studies suggest that diet may have a key role to play in terms of the nutrients gleaned, nutrients that cause harm, and body weight.
Boost Male Infertility and Increase Sperm Count
The impact of dietary patterns, foods, and nutrients on semen quality and fecundability (probability of conceiving within a period of time) was explored in a comprehensive review of the available research up until 2016.
This study published in the journal Human Reproductive Update found that a diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids, certain antioxidants (vitamin E, C, beta carotene, selenium, zinc, and lycopene), folate, vitamin D, and low in saturated fat was associated with better quality sperm.
What foods may promote fertility in men?
1. Fruits and vegetables
These groups of foods are rich in nutrients such as vitamins C and A, polyphenols, magnesium, folate, and fiber, which act as antioxidants in the body. Research has suggested a direct association between the production of ROS in sperm cells and the intake of antioxidants, which help to reduce this damage by neutralizing them.
Folate found in green vegetables is thought to be essential in the production of sperm cells by way of its role in DNA maintenance and protein synthesis. Fiber helps reduce estrogen, low levels of which are essential for normal fertility in men. Oily fish are rich in the omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA which play an important role in the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of enzymes.
2. Foods rich in zinc, selenium, and vitamin C
Zinc can be found in foods such as meat, cheese, shellfish wholegrain cereals, and nuts. Inadequate intakes of zinc in the diet have been linked to low sperm count and reduced testosterone levels. Men should aim to get 10mg of zinc per day. Selenium can be found in foods such as brazil nuts, fish, poultry, and eggs.
This mineral is required for normal sperm production and development and men should aim to get 55mcg per day. Vitamin C is thought to help prevent sperm cells clumping together (common with infertility) and men should aim to get 80mg per day.
Eggs are a fantastic food as they contain zinc to help in the development of healthy sperm and eggs, as well as containing choline to help prevent neural tube defects.
Regularly eating legumes such as lentils, chickpeas and kidney beans has been linked to improved fertility in women. Legumes are also a good source of zinc which helps support a healthy sperm concentration and motility, CoQ10 which may increase sperm count and l-carnitine which may improve motility and morphology of sperm.
Nutritional tips for men:
The genes you pass on to your baby through your sperm will affect your baby’s health at birth and throughout the rest of their life. Here’s how diet can improve the quality of your sperm and the long-term health of your children.
>> Heavy drinking can lower your sperm quality, so drink less alcohol while you’re trying for a baby. You might want to consider supporting your partner by giving it up altogether.
>> Researchers in Spain found that men who ate more fresh fruit and vegetables, and less processed meat, salt, and sugary foods, had a 65% higher sperm count than men who followed an unhealthy diet.
>> Being overweight will lower your sperm count and make it harder for your sperm to swim, so they’re less likely to reach their destination. Being overweight also means that you produce greater numbers of abnormally shaped sperm.