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Understanding Male Fertility Antioxidants

If you want to boost your fertility and sperm quality, antioxidants play an important role. In this blog article, you can therefore find a list of the right fertility antioxidants for men.

Our lifestyle and habits affect our health and fertility. Factors such as poor diet, physical inactivity, alcohol, tobacco use, pollutants, chemicals, and even psychological stress, have been associated with a decline in sperm function of men [1].

But why are these lifestyle factors significant and what do they have in common?

The answer is oxidative stress!

Oxidation in the human body is a result of the above mentioned unhealthy lifestyle factors. This results in a negative impact on sperm production and sperm quality.

Research shows a link between oxidative stress and many health conditions such as heart disease, cancer, arthritis, respiratory diseases, and infertility [2]. The male reproductive system is especially susceptible to oxidation. This may be because the mature sperm cells don’t possess any repair mechanisms like other types of cells.

However, our body has a defence system to protect us from the effects of oxidative stress, called antioxidants. These can be obtained from food or supplements and have a positive effect on sperm quality [3][4].

 

What are the best fertility antioxidants for men?

This is still an ongoing question that many men and fertility doctors struggle with.

In the last few years, many studies have investigated the effect of various antioxidant compounds on sperm quality. In a recent Cochrane meta-analysis (the ‘gold standard’ in research methodology), researchers compared 48 trials. The conclusion: supplementation with antioxidants is safe and can increase the chances of live birth by 79%.

The volume of online information on male antioxidants can be overwhelming and confusing. How do you know which antioxidants can improve fertility? The ExSeed-team have therefore prepared a list with some of the most researched antioxidants and their effect on male fertility. Here’s the complete list of the right fertility antioxidants for men:

L-Carnitine

L-Carnitine is one of the most well-studied nutrients in regard to male fertility treatment. You can find L-Carnitine in animal products. It is derived from the synthesis of the amino acids lysine and methionine.

Furthermore, L-Carnitine can act as an energy source to spermatozoa, and oral supplementation has been shown to improve semen quality [5]. A combination of L-Carnitine and another form called L-acetyl Carnitine (LAC) has also produced significant improvements in motility [6] [7].

Co-enzyme Q10

CoQ10 seems to be very important because it can protect the sperm cell membranes, which are very vulnerable to oxidation. CoQ10’s main function is to transfer electrons to the mitochondria, the “power plant” of the cell.

Supplementation with CoQ10 appears to lower oxidative stress and improve sperm count and motility in men with infertility [8] [9] [10]. One of the downsides of CoQ10 is that it’s expensive to buy the compound.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a very strong antioxidant compound and includes two categories of compounds called tocopherols and tocotrienols. In terms of fertility, vitamin E can reduce the free radical content in the testes [11] [12]. Several studies have evaluated the efficacy of vitamin E alone, but also in combination with other substances. These are for example vitamin C, Zinc, and Selenium. They demonstrate significant reduction of DNA fragmentation and improvements in sperm motility, and even live birth rates [13] [14] [15].

Lycopene

Lycopene is an antioxidant which belongs to the carotenoid family and specially tomatoes have a high concentration of Lycopene. In the human body, Lycopene is highly concentrated in the reproductive organs, including the testes and seminal fluid. So, decreased levels of lycopene are linked to sub-fertility. There are some studies suggesting lycopene can improve sperm health parameters and can increase the likelihood of a successful pregnancy through IVF treatment with lycopene supplementation [16] [17], though research is still on-going.

N-Acetyl Cysteine

N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) is a derivative of the amino acid cysteine. Treatment with NAC improves sperm volume, motility, and viscosity of semen as well as greater resistance to oxidative stress. For example, combining supplementation with NAC and Selenium had a significant improvement in sperm concentration and motility [18] [19].

 

How much should I take?

We can conclude that while supplementation with antioxidants is safe, it does not mean ‘the more the better’. So, our recommendation is that you should never exceed the recommended doses of the supplements you are taking. Remember also to never combine too many antioxidants at a time as this increases the risk of side effects.

This table summarizes the acceptable doses of each compound that you should be getting:

CompoundRecommended dose
L-Carnitine400-1,500 mg
Co-enzyme Q1050-100 mg
Vitamin E15-30 mg
Lycopene5-15 mg
L-acetyl Cysteine600-1,200 mg

 

 

Remember that you need to continue with the supplementation for at least 90 days in order to see results. That’s because it’s how long it takes for the body to create and mature new sperm cells.

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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.

Stress

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.

Nutrition

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.

Vegetables
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.

Heat

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.

BMI

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.  

Alcohol

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”.

Age

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.