Infertility is a subject that is often shrouded in secrecy and misconceptions. Infertility is often thought of as a female issue, but male infertility is a common problem that affects millions of couples worldwide. Unfortunately, male infertility is still somewhat taboo, and many men are reluctant to discuss their fertility issues.
Infertility is the inability to get pregnant despite regular, minimum yearly sexual intercourse without using any contraceptives (1). It is estimated that up to 15% of couples worldwide experience problems with getting pregnant, with approximately half of the cases related to male infertility (1). To determine whether a man is infertile, doctors usually perform a physical examination and a semen analysis (2). Semen analysis assesses the volume of ejaculate, sperm count, sperm motility, and sperm morphology (2).
Various factors can affect male fertility, such as diet, lifestyle, and environment. For instance, obesity has been linked to reduced semen concentration, and high-energy diets have been shown to reduce male fertility via alterations in testicular metabolism and increased sperm DNA damage (2). Dietary fats play a critical role in cell membrane formation and hormone maintenance, and low-fat diets may reduce testosterone levels in men, which, in turn, can reduce fertility (2).
Trans fatty acids (TFA) and saturated fats can cause disruptions in testosterone levels, testicular function, and sperm cell membrane quality (2). Caffeine intake should be limited, as high consumption can cause a decrease in semen quality, while moderate intake should not negatively impact sperm health (2). Similarly, moderate to high alcohol consumption can have a significant detrimental effect on semen health, while low and occasional alcohol intake does not appear to have any significant effect (2). Smoking tobacco can also be detrimental to male fertility, leading to decreased sperm concentration, motility, and morphology, increased oxidative damage, and levels of DNA damage in sperm cells (2).
Environmental factors can also contribute to male infertility. For example, it is advisable to keep the testes cool and avoid overheating the testes, which may occur from sitting for long periods of time, as heat exposure to the testes causes severe but reversible reductions in sperm quality and motility (2). Radiation-emitting devices and WIFI networks can produce deleterious effects on the testes, affecting sperm count, morphology, and motility, and causing an increase in DNA damage to the sperm (2).
Bisphenol A (BPA), which is used in the process of plastics manufacturing to make particularly strong and durable plastics, has been linked to reproductive dysfunction in both men and women due to its ability to bind and interact with estrogenic, androgenic, and thyroid hormone receptors (2). BPA is commonly found in food packaging and is able to leach from plastic containers, bottles, and liners of cans into food and beverages (2). Many products are now marketed and sold as BPA-free after concerns were raised regarding their safety, so it is best to always make sure to read the labels on any products before purchasing them to ensure they are BPA-free. Phthalates, which are fat-soluble synthetic chemicals known for their ability to soften plastic, have been linked with decreased testosterone (2). Phthalates are used in various industry sectors such as food processing, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, personal care products, flooring, and wall coverings (2). Pesticide exposure can lead to hormone disruption, germ cell death, testicular shrinkage, and decreased spermatogenesis (the production or development of mature sperm) (2).
Diet Beneficial for Male Fertility:
Fruits and Vegetables:
- Active Substances: Antioxidants, folic acid, fibre, minerals
- Vegetables and fruits provide the basis for pro-healthy nutrition models, which are associated with the improvement of semen quality and fertility (1).
Nuts and seeds:
- Active Substances: EFAs, fibre, tocopherols, phytosterols, polyphenols, minerals
- It is important to choose nuts and unroasted and unsalted seeds.
- The use of nuts in the diet may have a beneficial effect on the quality of sperm (1).
- Active Substances: Fibre, zinc, magnesium
- It is recommended to limit the consumption of refined flour products and choose whole-grain products, which are rich in fibre (1).
- Active Substance: Calcium
- It is beneficial to choose low-fat dairy products, due to their lower saturated fat content (1).
Oily sea fish:
- Active Substances: PUFA, omega-3, Fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, K
- Fish and seafood represent the main sources of DHA and EPA in the diet, therefore their incorporation in the diet may be associated with the improvement of semen quality (1).
Olive oil and rapeseed oil:
- Active Substances: PUFA, alpha-linolenic acid, vitamin E, polyphenols
- It is advisable to substitute saturated fats with vegetable oils containing unsaturated acid residues (1).
Lifestyle Practices Beneficial for Male Fertility:
Regular exercise can help improve sperm quality and production. however, excessive exercise can have the opposite effect, so it is important to maintain a balance (3). Some types of exercises that can help improve male fertility include resistance training, cardiovascular exercises, and kegel exercises.
Stress can affect hormone levels and sperm production (3). Managing stress through techniques such as meditation, yoga, or counseling can help improve male fertility.
Poor sleep causes reduced semen volume and sperm function (4). It is important to have a consistent sleep schedule and to avoid the use of electronic devices a couple of hours before sleeping.
Supplement Options from Nutrition Dispensary Beneficial for Male Fertility:
- Wellness Essentials® Men’s Vitality: Targeted Support for Men’s Health
- Ubiquinol: An antioxidant for the maintenance of good health.
- Men’s Nutrients: Multivitamin/mineral complex designed for men over 40.
- Male Fertility SAP: Science-based male fertility support
Although infertility can be a sensitive topic, an improved understanding of male infertility is essential to improve the care of these individuals. By addressing various lifestyle and environmental factors that can affect male fertility, men can take steps to improve their chances of conception and parenthood.
Blog Written by: Aysha Qureshi
March 2023 Nutrition Dispensary Inc.
Advice and/or information provided is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease.
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