When a man has no underlying health issues concerning his fertility, oxidative stress can often be the cause of poor sperm performance. But what the heck is oxidative stress and more importantly what can be done about it?
Here’s a summary of the most important stuff worth knowing about if you’re looking for how to increase male fertility.
Sperm cells are fragile wee-things and have a long gauntlet to run from the time of manufacture in the testes, until they arrive at their intended destination. Sperm are constantly exposed to a subset of free-radical compounds, known as reactive oxidative species (ROS).
low levels of ROS play a critical role in the normal functioning of sperm, an increased concentration can damage the fatty tissue that forms the membrane of sperm cells resulting in reduced motility and negatively impacting its ability to fuse with a female egg.
Antioxidants as male fertility supplements
Given the simplicity of the mechanism by which oxidative stress reduces male fertility, if an imbalance is suspected, then treatment via antioxidant supplements seems a sensible course of action. Antioxidants, are essentially vitamins and indeed, there is a massive industry of nutraceuticals being supplied to men who are looking to improve their fertility through supplementation products.
Which male fertility supplements are good to take?
One of the biggest challenges for couples looking to buy antioxidants is finding good quality, independent information on the efficacy of various compounds. This is because, like all fertility drugs for men, most of the people that will tell you about the benefits of various antioxidants have something to gain from you making a supplement purchase either directly, or through affiliations.
While most vendors of various antioxidants can point to scientific studies that support their product claims, having just one or two studies that demonstrate an improvement in fertility, does not mean it’s a cure. While this is a downside of being at the leading edge of science, as some surely manufacturers are, it’s also something we need to be wary of when making our purchasing decision.
What science really says about antioxidant supplements
After a review of 48 randomized controlled trials assessing the efficacy of antioxidants in a total of 4179 sub fertile men, Showell et al. (2014) reported that the probability of a couple having a live birth where the male is sub fertile increases from 5% where no antioxidant supplements are taken, to between 10-31% after treatment with oral antioxidants.
We have made the following conclusions regarding the efficacy of various antioxidants:
- Sperm Motility: Vitamin E, Coenzyme Q10, and Selenium treatments have been most often found effective for men with low sperm motility.
- Sperm Concentration: Vitamin E and Coenzyme Q10 were most often proved to be effective for men with low sperm concentration.
- Sperm Morphology: Selenium and Coenzyme Q10 were most often proven to be effective for helping men with a high number of abnormal shaped sperm.
- DNA Damage: Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Zinc and Selenium showed the most favorable effects on DNA fragmentation.
Lifestyle factors that put you at risk for oxidative stress
The first indicator that oxidative stress may be affecting your baby-making potential may be how many of the following lifestyle factors you may be able to relate to. The following factors are well known to strain your body’s natural antioxidant defenses:
- Aging (sorry fellas, I know there’s not a lot you can do about this one)
- Exposure to pollutants and chemicals
- Psychological stress
- Alcohol and tobacco use
- Pharmaceutical medications
- Poor diet and physical inactivity
If you’re a couple who is struggling to conceive either naturally or through assisted reproduction, there is a good chance that the male in your partnership may be reducing your odds of success. Sperm oxidative stress is a common ailment for many men, which can be treated with modest results using natural male fertility supplements.