Infertility affects around one in seven couples. WHO considers it a global health problem. One of the leading causes is impaired semen quality, and Danish, Norwegian, and German men have lower sperm quality than any other male populations. Impaired sperm quality may be a result of an unhealthy lifestyle with stress, tobacco, stimulants, and hormone-disrupting compounds. On the other hand, scientists from Mexico have found that supplements of zinc, selenium, Q10, and omega-3 have an effect on the number of sperm cells and their quality. Other studies show that zinc and selenium protect sperm cells and are important for testosterone levels.
It is common knowledge that different nutrients are of vital importance for fertility, but there is not much documentation when it comes to the effect of nutritional supplements. Nonetheless, many fertility clinics worldwide advise their patients to take nutritional supplements before deciding to go through with in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Scientists from the Clinical Department for Human Reproduction and Infant Growth at the University of Guadalajara in Mexico have carried out the most extensive and systematic review to date of randomized clinical studies. Here, they have looked at the effects of different nutrients and dietary supplements on sperm quality and male fertility.
Nutritional supplements improve sperm quality in several ways
The researchers from the University of Guadalajara studied the results of 28 nutritional studies with 29,000 participants. Based on their observations, they concluded that:
- Selenium, zinc, omega-3, and coenzyme Q10 are associated with an increase in sperm count
- Selenium, zinc, omega-3, and coenzyme Q10 are associated with improved sperm cell motility
- Selenium, omega-3, and coenzyme Q10 have a positive effect on sperm morphology
According to the researchers, the mentioned nutritional supplements may therefore have a positive influence on sperm quality. They base their assumption on the extensive study and the review of existing scientific evidence. Although the scientists call for further studies to help them come up with a more detailed conclusion, it is, nonetheless, essential for men to get enough of the mentioned nutrients in order to ensure optimal fertility. Their study is published in the scientific journal Advances.
Relation between blood levels of zinc and selenium and testosterone levels
Testicles and sperm cells contain quite a lot of selenium and zinc, because the two nutrients support a host of enzyme functions. There is even a link between blood levels of selenium and zinc and levels of the male sex hormone testosterone. Infertile men have significantly lower levels of selenium and zinc in their blood compared with fertile men, according to an earlier study from the Nnewi fertility clinic in southeastern Nigeria.
Selenium and Q10 boost sperm cell motility
Sperm cells swim vigorously in their chase to fertilize the egg. Selenium-dependent proteins in the tail piece help muster the power for this action. Sperm cells need to cover a relatively long distance to reach the egg in the fallopian tube and fertilize it. It is only the strongest sperm cells that complete the journey. Sperm cells therefore need quite a lot of Q10 to generate the required energy.
Selenium and zinc protect sperm cell DNA
Selenium and zinc also function as antioxidants that protect the DNA of the sperm cells against oxidative stress caused by free radicals. Regular stress, lack of sleep, smoking, inflammation, and toxic exposure to mercury and other environmental pollutants also increase the risk of oxidative stress, which is an imbalance between harmful free radicals and protective antioxidants.
Therefore, it the man lacks selenium and zinc, his sperm cells become vulnerable to something called DNA fragmentation, which means that even though the sperm cell is able to fertilize the egg, the egg will not be able to develop normally, and it will eventually be rejected.
Both zinc and selenium stimulate the formation of healthy sperm cells and protect their DNA, which is why sexually active men need more selenium and zinc, as large amounts are lost with each ejaculation of semen.
An estimated one billion people worldwide lack selenium and zinc.
Why is lack of selenium, zinc, and omega-3 so widespread?
The Mexican study and several other studies suggest that lack of the mentioned nutrients is one of the major contributing factors to poor sperm quality. Even if you eat a healthy diet it can be difficult to get enough selenium, simply because the agricultural soil in Europe and certain other parts of the world is nutrient-depleted. This affects the entire food chain. As a way of correcting the problem, Danish farmers have for decades supplemented their livestock with selenium as a way of preventing fertility problems.
A zinc deficiency is a result of unhealthy eating habits and lack of animal protein, which is normally a good source of zinc. Other things that may reduce your zinc status include getting too much iron, calcium, and alcohol. Heavy sweating, lack of stomach acid, and the use of antacids can also lead to a zinc deficiency. Lack of omega-3 is a result of eating too little oily fish but it is also linked to the fact that meat, eggs, dairy products, and farmed fish contain less omega-3 because of unnatural feed that is given to the animals.
We humans are able to synthesize Q10, but our endogenous production decreases with age. Also, cholesterol lowering medicine inhibits the body’s Q10 synthesis.
Choose high-quality supplements
When looking for supplements, it is essential to carefully study the label and choose high-quality products, which the body is able to absorb and utilize.
There are different types of inorganic and organic selenium. Selenium yeast is ideal, as it provides the same selenium variety as you get from eating a balanced diet with many different selenium sources. Many zinc supplements contain inorganic zinc sources like zinc sulphate and zinc oxide, which the body has difficulty with absorbing, whereas the body can easily absorb and utilize organic zinc types such as zinc gluconate and zinc acetate.
In virtually all Q10 raw materials, the Q10 molecules have aggregated in large, insoluble crystals, which the body is unable to dissolve at normal body temperature. However, a special technique that involves mixing Q10 with different types of oil and exposing it to heat makes it possible for the crystals to dissolve into free Q10 molecules in the digestive system, so they are able to pass through the intestinal wall and enter the bloodstream. Always choose Q10 supplements that have documented bioavailability and quality, so you are guaranteed that the Q10 reaches the energy-producing mitochondria of the cells.
|Important: Good sperm quality also requires sufficient cool air around the genital area. Wearing thick fabric or tight-fitting trousers can raise the temperature and lower sperm quality. The same is the case if a man sits with his portable computer on his lap|
Salas-Huetos a et al. The Effect of Nutrients and Dietary Supplements on Sperm Quality Parameters: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials. Advances in Nutrition. 2018
Universitat Rovira i Virgili. Certain dietary or nutritional supplements could improve sperm quality. November 2018
Ali Fallah et al. Zinc is an Essential Element for Male Fertility: A Review of Zn Roles in men´s Health, Germination, Sperm Quality, and Fertilization. Journal of Reproduction & Infertility. 2018
Oluboya AO el al. Relationship between serum levels of testosterone, zinc and selenium in infertile males attending fertility Nnewi, south East Nigeria. Afr J Med Sci 2012
Menezo Yj et al. Antioxidants to reduce sperm DNA fragmentation: an unexpected side effect. Reprod Biomed Online 2017
Mistry HD el at. Selenium in reproductive health. Am J Obsttet Gynecol 2012
Niels Jørgensen og Lærke Priskorn. Hvorfor falder sædkvaliteten blandt vestlige mænd. Videnskab.dk 2017
Christensen BT et al. Selenanvendelse i dansk landbrug. Rapport fra DJF 2006. Videncentret for landbrug.
Pernille Lund. Q10 – fra helsekost til epokegørende medicin. Ny videnskab 2014
Search for more information...