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What is Sperm DNA Fragmentation?

In the realm of human reproduction, male fertility plays a crucial role in the ability to conceive a child. While sperm count and motility are widely recognized as indicators of male fertility, another factor, known as sperm DNA fragmentation, has emerged as a significant determinant of reproductive success.

Sperm DNA fragmentation refers to the presence of breaks or damage in the genetic material of sperm cells. This damage can hinder the integrity of sperm DNA, affecting its ability to carry genetic information accurately and stably during fertilization and early embryo development. As a result, DNA fragmentation is associated with a higher risk of infertility, recurrent miscarriage, and chromosomal abnormalities in offspring.


Defining Sperm DNA Fragmentation

Sperm DNA fragmentation is measured by assessing the percentage of sperm with double-strand breaks (DSBs), the most severe type of DNA damage. Normal sperm typically exhibit DSB levels below 15%, while higher percentages indicate increased fragmentation.


Identifying Causes of Sperm DNA Fragmentation

A range of factors contribute to DNA fragmentation, including:

  1. Oxidative Stress: Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are naturally occurring molecules that can damage DNA. Elevated ROS levels, often caused by smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, environmental pollutants, and chronic stress, can significantly increase DNA fragmentation.
  2. Infectious Diseases: Chlamydia and other sexually transmitted infections can trigger inflammation in the male reproductive tract, leading to oxidative stress and DNA damage in sperm.
  3. Hormonal Imbalances: Testosterone deficiency and imbalances in other reproductive hormones can disrupt the process of sperm development, increasing the susceptibility to DNA fragmentation.
  4. Nutritional Deficiencies: Deficiencies in certain vitamins and minerals, such as zinc, vitamin C, and vitamin E, can impair sperm function and increase DNA fragmentation.
  5. Genetic Predisposition: Certain genetic factors may increase an individual’s susceptibility to DNA fragmentation.

Consequences of Sperm DNA Fragmentation

DNA fragmentation can have detrimental consequences for male fertility and reproductive success:

  1. Reduced Fertilization Rate: Damaged sperm DNA may struggle to penetrate an egg cell, leading to a lower fertilization rate.
  2. Increased Miscarriage Rate: Chromosome abnormalities caused by sperm DNA damage can increase the risk of miscarriage, particularly during early pregnancy.
  3. Premature Oocyte Aging: Oxidative stress, a prevalent cause of DNA fragmentation, can also accelerate oocyte aging, further reducing the chances of successful conception.

Managing Sperm DNA Fragmentation

Addressing DNA fragmentation requires a multifaceted approach that considers lifestyle modifications, medical interventions, and nutritional support:

Lifestyle Changes

Men can adopt healthy lifestyle habits to reduce the risk of DNA fragmentation, including:

  • Smoking Cessation: Smoking is a major contributor to oxidative stress, so quitting smoking is crucial for improving sperm health.
  • Alcohol Moderation: Excessive alcohol intake can also increase oxidative stress and DNA damage, so limiting alcohol consumption is essential.
  • Stress Management: Chronic stress can elevate ROS levels and disrupt sperm production, so incorporating stress-management techniques, such as yoga or meditation, is beneficial.
  • Healthy Diet: A balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein provides essential nutrients for sperm health.

Medical Interventions

If lifestyle modifications are insufficient, medical interventions may be considered:

  • Antioxidant Supplements: Supplementing with antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, can help neutralize ROS and reduce DNA damage.
  • Hormone Therapy: Men with hormonal imbalances may require hormone therapy to restore normal levels and enhance sperm function.
  • Treatment of Underlying Conditions: Addressing underlying medical conditions, such as infections or nutritional deficiencies, can help reduce the risk of DNA fragmentation.

Sperm DNA fragmentation testing can provide valuable insights into a man’s fertility potential. By measuring DSB levels in sperm, this test can identify men at high risk of infertility and guide appropriate interventions.

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Wearing tight pants and underwear

Studies show that men who wear looser underwear have higher sperm concentration and total sperm count compared to men who wear tighter underwear. So, lose the tight clothes and wear something loose to give your testicles some air.

CONCLUSION: learn more about how heat can affect sperm quality here.


Besides higher mortality rate and various diseases, stress is associated with low sperm quality. Stress is known to be associated with lower testosterone levels and oxidative stress with both playing an essential role in producing and maintaining healthy sperm cells.

CONCLUSION: If you feel stressed, we recommend you get some help so you can have a balanced mental health. For a stress management guide, download the ExSeed app for free and start your personalized action plan today.

Physical activity

Scientific studies show that men who are physically active have better semen parameters than men who are inactive. Fertility specialists also state that regular physical activity has beneficial impact on sperm fertility parameters and such a lifestyle can enhance the fertility status of men.

Prioritizing exercise can help improve your overall health and result in healthy, fast swimming sperm cells that have good chances of fertilizing an egg.

CONCLUSION: Try incorporating exercise in your weekly schedule to you ensure exercising at least twice weekly. We recommend a combination of cardio training and strength exercise. Read more about exercise and male fertility on our blog.


Fast Food
Processed foods damage the health of sperm-producing cells and cause oxidative stress, which lead to poorer sperm quality. Heavy consumption of junk food (every week) can increase the likelihood of infertility since men who consume vast amounts of unhealthy food are at risk of having poor sperm quality. Besides harming your fertility, junk food enlarges your waistline, harms your cardiovascular system, kidneys, and more.

Eating more fruit and vegetables can increase your sperm concentration and motility. It’s important that you consume a healthy diet filled with antioxidants and that you eat vegetables every day. Foods such as apricots and red bell peppers are high in vitamin A, which improves male fertility by nurturing healthier sperm. Men who are deficient in this vitamin tend to have slow and sluggish sperm.

Sugary snacks/beverages: several times a week Excessive consumption of high sugar items can lead to oxidative stress, which negatively impacts testosterone levels and sperm motility. Sugary snacks and beverages are also highly associated with obesity and low fertility.
CONCLUSION: To boost sperm quality, stay away from fast food, processed food, and sugary snacks or beverages. You need to implement a healthy prudent diet filled with necessary superfoods needed for good sperm production. Check out our guide to Male Fertility Superfoods. For personalized guidance and support on how you can start improving your sperm health, check out the Bootcamp.


Direct heat can inhibit optimal sperm production and cause Sperm DNA damage. Sperm cells like environments that are a couple of degrees lower than body temperature. Avoid overheating from warm blankets, seat warmers, heat from your laptop, hot showers, and saunas.

Cigarette smoking

The exposure to tobacco smoke has significant negative effects on semen quality. The damage of cigarettes and nicotine of course depends on how many cigarettes you smoke per day and for how long, but even low usage (up to 10 cigarettes / day) can inhibit healthy sperm production.  

CONCLUSION: Stay as far away from cigarette smoking as possible if you care about your general health and your fertility. Read more here.

Cell phone

When you have your cell phone in your front pocket, your testicles are exposed to electromagnetic radiation, which studies have shown to damage the sperm cells. Put your phone in the back pocket of your pants or in your jacket pocket.


There is a clear association between obesity and reduced sperm quality. At least part of the reason for this is that obese men may have abnormal reproductive hormonal profiles, which can impair sperm production and lead to infertility. 

A BMI higher than 30 can lead to several processes in the body (overheating, increase in oxidative stress in the testes, sperm DNA damage, erectile dysfunction) that can have a negative impact on male fertility. This can result in problems when trying to conceive.  

CONCLUSION: BMI is one of the risk factors that influence semen quality and, for example, sperm motility.  


A beer or glass of wine now and then do not really harm sperm quality. But excess alcohol drinking (more than 20 units per week) can reduce the production of normally formed sperm needed for a successful pregnancy.

CONCLUSION: If you want to stay safe, stay under 14 units of alcohol per week. For more information on how alcohol can affect male fertility, take a look at our blog: “Alcohol and Sperm Quality”.


Studies show that women younger than 35 and men younger than 40 have a better chance of getting pregnant. Men can produce sperm cells almost through their entire life, but the sperm cell DNA is more fragile and prone to damage after the age of 40.

As men age, their testes tend to get smaller and softer resulting in a decline in sperm quality and production. These changes are partly because of an age-related decrease in testosterone level, which plays a very important role in sperm

production. Higher male age (>40 years) is not only associated with a decline in sperm production but also with increased sperm DNA fragmentation and worsened morphology (shape) and motility (movement). These negative effects make the sperm cells less qualified for egg fertilization.

CONCLUSION: with an age under 40, you shouldn’t have to worry much about age as a factor in itself. However, studies have shown a slow decline after the age of 30-35 years

and if you are above 40 years of age, your sperm quality can be affected due to increased sperm DNA damage resulting in a decrease of sperm motility and concentration. Remember that you cannot evaluate the quality of a sperm sample by just looking at it – this requires a sperm analysis.