Fertility in men is determined by two factors: the overall quality
of sperm and the ability to deliver the sperm to the awaiting egg. Optimal nutrition plays an essential role in these two factors and therefore the right combination of diet and supplementation can improve many male-related fertility issues and infertility problems. A recent study at McGill University in Montreal suggest an even greater importance on male nutrition than was ever though before.1
Sperm is the vehicle containing a very precious passenger -- the DNA that contributes towards creating another human. Just like your car, if it's not functioning properly it cannot reach its destination and the journey of the sperm is a long, complex and somewhat dangerous one!
Sperm and the genetic material contained within is vulnerable to oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is potential damage that can come from normal metabolic activity, inflammation, and environmental stress in the form of chemicals and heat. Cumulative oxidative stress can damage the sperm and affect the size, shape and numbers of sperm, reduce sperm motility, interfere with the sperm's ability to bind and fuse with the egg, and damage the DNA that can lead to developmental problems in the future baby.
Luckily, biology has endowed the sperm with a wide array of antioxidants that act as free radical scavengers to protect the sperm against oxidative stress. However, male infertility can result if the oxidative stress exceeds the available antioxidant defenses. The source of antioxidant that protects the sperm and DNA must come from diet. Unfortunately, the increasing number of sources of oxidative stress (chemicals in the environment, food, air and water) and the easy access to over-processed nutrient poor foods are creating a situation of overwhelming oxidative stress and deficient antioxidant stores for defense. This may explain why male infertility is on the rise on a global scale.
The male reproductive organs coordinate together to help first, to produce the sperm and semen and second, to deliver the sperm to meet the egg. Proper sperm and semen production requires healthy testicles. Following that, a healthy erection and ejaculation is required. Stress, high blood pressure, diabetes, poor blood circulation, infection, inflammation and obstruction can all interfere with male sexual function. Just as nutrition is essential to sperm health, it is also essential to sexual function. Building blocks are needed to produce the sperm and semen. Nutrients are needed to maintain healthy blood pressure and blood circulation, healthy blood sugar levels, maintain the muscles and tissues of the reproductive organs. Good nutrition also helps the body and mind be resistant to stress.
Even if your sperm and semen analysis shows "everything is within normal", it is still within the best interest of your future baby to eat a healthy nutrient and anti-oxidant rich diet so that the sperm you produce can be the "best of the best" versus the "best of the average". And while IVF and IUI and other reproductive technologies are available to help couples struggling with fertility issues, the best chance for success comes from the healthiest sperm and the healthiest eggs.
Male infertility accounts for up to 40% of all cases of infertility experienced among couples today. Unfortunately the incidence of male infertility is on the rise. However, nutrition, diet and supplementation can help improve fertility by providing the building blocks to make sperm and semen, providing antioxidants to protect the sperm and genetic material and providing a good foundation for healthy sexual functioning.
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1. Nat Commun. 2013 Dec 10;4:2889. doi: 10.1038/ncomms3889. Low paternal dietary folate alters the mouse sperm epigenome and is associated with negative pregnancy outcomes. Lambrot R, Xu C, Saint-Phar S, Chountalos G, Cohen T, Paquet M, Suderman M, Hallett M, Kimmins S.