If you are struggling with male infertility you may have been tempted by advertisements for fertility supplements. But do they really work? It’s important to look at the ingredients of each male fertility supplement you are considering to see if their claims are backed up by science.
For healthy sperm, men should increase their intake of antioxidants, particularly if they are older or have fertility issues. Two recent studies have found that increased antioxidant intake is linked to improved sperm quality.
"Americans spend billions of dollars every year on vitamins and other supplements. Evidence of the benefit is lacking. The problem is that proving the efficacy of one type of treatment for multiple diseases with multiple causes is nearly impossible," says Joe Massey, M.D., a founder of Servy Massey Fertility Institute in Atlanta, GA. "In male infertility, the situation is parallel. In a modern society, dietary deficiency is unlikely to have caused male infertility. With this understanding, in cases of male subfertility, there is new evidence that there is some improvement in DNA strand breaks by high consumption of certain vitamins or by supplementation at levels difficult to reach with food."
Older Men and Sperm Quality
These days more older men over 35 are becoming fathers, and as men age, their sperm are likely to have more sperm DNA fragmentation. chromosomal rearrangements and DNA strand damage. In addition, studies have found that the age of the father when a baby is conceived does matter with regard to passing on gene mutations.
Now, researchers have found that improving one's diet may be a way to protect against some of this damage. in a study led by scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and reported in the journal Fertility and Sterility, researchers analyzed 80 healthy male volunteers between 22 and 80 years of age. They found that men older than 44 who consumed the most vitamin C had 20 percent less sperm DNA damage compared to men older than 44 who consumed the least vitamin C. They found the same was true for vitamin E, zinc and folate. However, they did not see the same effects in younger men — higher intake of micronutrients didn’t improve their sperm DNA.
There is a male biological clock. A new study has found that the age of the father when a baby is conceived does matter with regard to passing on gene mutations. The findings, which are published in Nature, may help explain rising rates of autism.
The study was part of a collaboration between deCODE Genetics, a leader in understanding the human genome, and Illumina, a maker of instruments to analyze the genome and their whole genome sequencing project, which is examining associations of diseases with rare variants in the genome. The investigative team sequenced the genomes of 78 Icelandic families with children who had a diagnosis of autism or schizophrenia. They also looked at the genomes of an additional 1,859 Icelanders to provide a larger comparative population.
When trying to conceive or undergoing fertility treatment, couples are typically told to stay away from vaginal lubricants because they can affect sperm motility (movement). This past week, however, a UNC-Chapel Hill study came out that found no difference in the conception success rates of those who used over-the-counter lubricants and those who didn't.
But don't rush out to buy the K-Y® jelly just yet (not even if you're in the middle of "50 Shades of Grey"). This is just one study, and fertility doctors say that shouldn't change couples' behavior.
"Several prior studies published in peer-reviewed journals demonstrated significant adverse effects of most lubricants on sperm — especially relating to motility," says Scott Roseff, MD, FACOG, a fertility expert with South Florida Institute for Reproductive Medicine.
So … apparently there is a new study out of Britain that may have your man printing it out to gleefully bring home and wave under your nose, saying, "See honey, even though we're trying to have a baby, I don't have to stop drinking or smoking or start eating healthy and losing weight! It says so right here in this study! 'Heavy Drinking, Smoking Won't Harm Men's Sperm.'"
To borrow from Saturday Night Live … Really? You think it's a good idea to be party rockin' in the house every night when you're trying to conceive? Really? Isn't that just a bit too good to be true?
Take a step back and breathe. And don't give your would-be dad the green light to go wild just yet.
Men, if you're a serious cyclist, you may want to downgrade your level of participation to recreational if you and your partner are trying to get pregnant. A new study out of the UCLA School of Nursing found that serious leisure male cyclists may experience hormonal imbalances that could affect their reproductive health.
"Although preliminary, these findings warrant further investigation to determine if specific types of exercise may be associated with altered sex hormone levels in men that could affect general health and reproductive well-being," says Leah Fitzgerald, Ph.D., FNP-BC, assistant professor at the School of Nursing and senior author of the study, which was published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology.
While many have theorized that cycling can affect male fertility because increased scrotal temperature can reduce sperm production, researchers at UCLA investigated the association between exercise intensity and circulating levels of the reproductive hormones, such estrogen and testosterone, in serious leisure male athletes (triathletes and cyclists) and recreational athletes. There were 107 healthy male athletes, ages 18 to 60, who participated and filled out the International Physical Assessment Questionnaire to obtain an objective estimate of time spent participating in different levels of physical activity and inactivity during the previous seven days. The researchers divided the participants into three groups — 1) triathletes, 2) cyclists and 3) recreational athletes.
Researchers are increasingly finding genes that are linked to fertility, such as the recent British study that identified a gene in mice that is important in sperm to egg binding. Now, scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Nutrition Research Institute have found a possible genetic cause for some cases of male infertility in humans and published their findings in PLoS One.
Led by Amy Johnson, Ph.D., the study found that a genetic variant, called a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), is more common in men with compromised sperm motility (sperm movement). Sperm have to be able to propel themselves and move forward to successfully fertilize an egg.
There have been several new developments in male fertility research recently.
Male Fertility Gene Discovered in Mice
British researchers have identified a gene in mice that is important for the process of sperm-to-egg binding. The gene makes a protein called PDILT, which enables sperm to bind to an egg and is essential to fertilization.
Men taking antioxidant supplements to improve their fertility is a trend that is growing in close proportion to both the increasing prevalence of subfertility in couples trying to conceive, as well as the increasing awareness that male factors can be a significant problem during this potentially challenging phase in a couple’s relationship. It is well known now that male factors are the sole cause of infertility in 30% of couples who have difficulty conceiving, with another 20% attributable to both male and female factors.