A Guide To The Best Fertility Supplements And Vitamins For Men

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Dr. Myles Spar is a double board-certified medical expert in performance medicine, men’s health, advanced testing and integrative medicine.
Myles Spar, M.D., M.P.H. Integrative Medicine / Men’s Health
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Dealing with fertility issues can be both emotionally and financially draining. You may feel you and your partner are alone in your struggle to conceive, but fertility issues are more common than you might realize, affecting up to 9% of men and 11% of women in the U.S[1].

Though not all cases of infertility can be solved through diet and lifestyle factors, you may be able to optimize your natural fertility with nutrients and lifestyle choices. And as there are certain vitamins and minerals shown to impact female fertility, such is also the case for males, too.

Here’s what you need to know about the most important vitamins, minerals, supplements and lifestyle choices that support male fertility.

What Is Male Fertility?

Male fertility is dependent on the continuous production of sperm by the testes in order to fertilize an egg, and the ability for erection and ejaculation in order for the sperm to reach the egg. Male infertility refers to the inability for a man to achieve a pregnancy with a female partner, after one year of regular and unprotected sex.

Infertility affects about 8% to 12% of reproductive-aged couples worldwide[2]. While men are solely responsible for 20% to 30% of those couple-based cases, they contribute to about half of all cases of infertility.

Sperm quality is one important measure of male fertility. It includes the amount of sperm in semen (sperm concentration), the shape of sperm (sperm morphology) and sperm’s ability to swim to an egg (sperm motility). Interestingly, research suggests the quality of human semen has deteriorated by 50% to 60% over the last 40 years, and could be affected by factors such as a high-fat diet and obesity[3].

Environmental factors, lifestyle and genetics can all contribute to fertility in men as well. In many cases of male infertility, the exact cause and underlying mechanisms aren’t known.

The Best Vitamins for Male Fertility

While some sperm disorders are genetic, the foods you eat and nutrients they contain may affect the quality of your sperm. Research suggests diets that are high in healthy fats, antioxidants and carotenoids from fruits, vegetables and whole grains (such as the Mediterranean diet) are associated with higher sperm concentration and motility. Conversely, diets high in processed foods, simple carbohydrates (carbs that are high in sugar and low in fiber and other nutrients) and trans and saturated fats have been linked to infertility.

Research suggests the following vitamins and minerals are the most important for supporting fertility in men who are trying to conceive.

Zinc

One of the most important nutrients for male fertility, zinc is essential for production of sperm, sperm morphology, sperm count and proper sperm functioning. In studies, zinc concentration in semen is directly related to sperm quality—men with infertility typically have low levels of zinc in their semen[4].

Still, the research is mixed—while some studies suggest supplementing with zinc improves sperm motility in men with infertility, others show no benefit[4].

Since your body has no way of storing zinc, it’s important to ensure you are meeting your recommended dietary allowance of 11 milligrams  of zinc daily through the foods you eat, and a supplement if necessary.

Zinc is abundant in meat, fish and seafood. The best food sources of zinc include:

  • Oysters
  • Beef
  • Crab
  • Fortified breakfast cereals
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Pork
  • Turkey
  • Shrimp
  • Lentils

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that may help reduce free radical damage and support semen quality.

Sperm are particularly susceptible to oxidative damage from free radicals. In fact, research suggests damage from oxidative stress on sperm is responsible for 30% to 80% of male subfertility cases[5].

Again, the research on vitamin C supplementation’s impact on sperm quality is mixed. Some studies suggest vitamin C may improve the quality of semen by reducing oxidative stress and improving antioxidant status. However, others found no effect of vitamin C and other antioxidants on sperm quality in men with infertility.

While more research is needed to determine whether supplementing with vitamin C can help improve fertility, it’s still important to ensure you’re getting enough vitamin C through your diet to support healthy sperm production, which for men, is a recommended 90 milligrams a day.

Some of the best sources of vitamin C include:

  • Red peppers
  • Citrus fruits and juices, like oranges and grapefruits
  • Kiwifruit
  • Broccoli
  • Strawberries
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cantaloupe

Selenium

Selenium is another important nutrient for healthy sperm production. Studies show not getting enough selenium negatively affects sperm health, and men with infertility tend to have lower levels of this mineral in their blood[7][8].

While increased intake of selenium is associated with better sperm quality, studies provide mixed results on whether supplementing with selenium boosts fertility[8][9]. If you don’t have a selenium deficiency, there isn’t any evidence that supplementing with selenium will increase your fertility. And too much selenium may actually lead to fertility disorders—so it’s important to get enough, but not too much; the recommended daily amount for men is 55 micrograms.

Selenium is available in many foods, including:

  • Brazil nuts
  • Fish and seafood, like tuna, halibut, sardines and shrimp
  • Ham
  • Beef
  • Poultry, like turkey and chicken
  • Cottage cheese
  • Rice

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a collective term for a group of fat-soluble antioxidants that protect against the damaging effects of free radicals and has an important role in protecting sperm membranes against free radical damage. Because of these actions, scientists believe vitamin E may improve mitochondrial activity in sperm and decrease damage to the sperm.

The recommended daily amount of vitamin E for men is 15 milligrams, and the best food sources of vitamin E include:

  • Nuts and seeds, like sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts and peanuts
  • Vegetable oils, including wheat germ, sunflower and safflower oils
  • Green leafy vegetables, like spinach and broccoli

If you, like most Americans, aren’t getting your recommended dietary allowance of 15 milligrams of vitamin E daily from your diet, you can take a supplement to ensure you are meeting your needs.

The Best Supplements for Male Fertility

When you’re trying to conceive or dealing with fertility issues, it may be tempting to reach for one of the many supplements marketed to boost male fertility. However, research on the safety and efficacy of these supplements is limited.

Since supplements aren’t regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the way medications are, it can be challenging to know if a supplement contains what it says it does, and what effect it will have on the body, explains Philip Cheng, M.D., a male infertility doctor and urologist with Reproductive Medicine Associates of New Jersey. In order to get the nutrients you need to support healthy sperm production, he recommends focusing on a healthy diet.

Research suggests the following supplements may improve sperm quality, especially if you aren’t getting enough of the nutrients they provide through your diet—but remember, it’s always a good idea to check with your physician before adding new supplements to your regimen to avoid interactions with any medications you are taking.

Coenzyme Q10

Research notes Coenzyme Q10, also known as ubiquinol, is one of the most studied and promising supplements for improving male fertility. Coenzyme Q10 is an antioxidant naturally produced in your body and stored in your mitochondria (the energy factories in your cells). Its antioxidant properties may help protect sperm from damaging free radicals.

One review found that men who supplemented with CoQ10 experienced significant increases in sperm concentration and sperm motility compared to those who took a placebo[6].

Russell Hayden, M.D., a Harvard-trained urologist with a sub-specialty in male infertility and microsurgery, recommends 300 milligrams to 400 milligrams of a generic coenzyme Q10 supplement daily to his male infertility patients.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

When it comes to supplements for male fertility, “DHA omega-3 fatty acid supplementation appears to have some of the strongest data supporting its use,” says Lauren Manaker, a registered dietitian and author of Fueling Male Fertility.

Fatty acids like docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are important components of sperm cell membranes, and omega-3 fatty acid intake directly correlates to sperm quality—so the more you consume, you may have higher quality of sperm[9].

A recent review on the effects of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA on male infertility found that men who took omega-3 treatments had significantly increased sperm motility compared with men who took a placebo[10].

If your intake of omega-3s from foods like fatty fish, walnuts, chia and flax seeds is low, you might benefit from taking a supplement.

Prenatal Vitamins for Men

Women who are trying to conceive are routinely advised to take a prenatal vitamin, but men’s prenatals are starting to become popular as well, notes licensed dietitian Becca Romero, a functional nutritionist specializing in fertility. She recommends men’s prenatal multivitamins WeNatal For Him and Needed to her patients.

WeNatal For Him is a prenatal supplement for men that is formulated to support overall sperm health. It contains a range of vitamins and minerals along with other ingredients and antioxidants that are marketed to boost male fertility, like maca, CoQ10 and acetyl L-carnitine.

Needed Men’s Multi is recommended for men before conceiving and in the years that follow. It contains a wide range of vitamins and minerals, as well as an organic antioxidant blend of foods like grape, cranberry, pomegranate, blueberry, apple, mangosteen, bilberry, chokeberry and goji berry.

A male prenatal multivitamin can fill any nutrition gaps in your diet and help you avoid deficiencies that could impact your sperm quality. When choosing a men’s prenatal supplement, steer clear of formulations that contain unstudied ingredients or excessive amounts of vitamins and minerals.

How to Boost Male Fertility

Men constantly produce new sperm, notes Evangelia Elenis, M.D., Ph.D., a chief physician in obstetrics and gynecology, a subspecialist in reproductive medicine and the chief medical advisor at Tilly. “This means lifestyle adjustments can make a big impact relatively quickly, as new sperm develops in about three months,” says Dr. Elenis.

Katherine Rotker, M.D., an assistant professor of urology at the Yale School of Medicine and specialist in sexual health and male infertility, tells her patients that, “what is good for you is good for your sperm.”

You can optimize your fertility by incorporating these healthy habits into your daily life:

  • Eat a well-balanced diet. Diets rich in fruits and vegetables, fiber, lean protein and healthy fats, like the Mediterranean diet, are associated with higher rates of fertility in men.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. While men who are overweight can have healthy babies, data suggests living with extra weight or obesity can make conceiving a child more challenging, explains Manaker.
  • Exercise regularly. Aim to include 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity and two days of strength training per week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Moderate exercise helps you maintain a healthy weight and manage stress, both of which help support your fertility. But don’t overdo it—men who participate in more frequent and rigorous exercise tend to have lower sperm quality than moderate exercisers[11].
  • Quit smoking. “Smoking remains the most reliable modifiable factor that influences sperm quality,” notes Dr. Hayden, who advises all his patients to undergo smoking cessation counseling several months before attempting to conceive if they use tobacco or marijuana products.
  • Limit alcohol consumption. Studies suggest chronic alcohol consumption is associated with poor semen quality[12].
  • Avoid excessive heat or pressure on your testicles. Steer clear of hot tubs, saunas, laptops on the lap, seat warmers and even tight underwear, all of which can negatively impact sperm quality, advises Dr. Cheng. Consider avoiding excessive cycling, since it puts undue pressure on the genitals, adds Romero.
  • Get enough sleep. Studies suggest sleep deprivation may impact both male and female fertility[13].
  • Manage your stress. Stress can exacerbate infertility. So, it’s especially important to effectively manage stress while trying to conceive[14].
  • Avoid exogenous testosterone. Supplementing with testosterone interferes with your body’s natural signals that control the creation of new sperm, leading to lower sperm levels and fertility. “Before beginning testosterone replacement therapy, a man should have a detailed discussion regarding his fertility goals with their health care provider,” notes Dr. Hayden.

When to See a Doctor

If you have been trying to conceive for 12 months and have not achieved a pregnancy, it’s a good idea to seek out a fertility evaluation. If you have known factors that contribute to infertility, you may want to seek care sooner.

Certain risk factors warrant early evaluation, including history of varicocele (dilated veins in the scrotum), undescended testis in childhood, obesity, diabetes or other hormone disorders, genetic conditions such as Klinefelter’s syndrome or use of testosterone supplementation, notes Dr. Rotker.

Dr. Cheng also advises men who have issues with sexual function that prevent them from being able to have sex and ejaculate to seek care with a urologist. “Some men are unable to have sex due to erectile dysfunction, while others have no issues with erections but are unable to ejaculate. Even if their sperm parameters are off the charts, these couples will not be able to conceive without intervention,” notes Dr. Cheng.

If you suspect you may have a low sperm count, Dr. Hayden recommends getting a semen analysis sooner rather than later. “The test is not burdensome, may provide reassurance, and in the worst-case scenario, could identify an issue sooner before the couple waits an entire year,” he explains.

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