Do male fertility supplements work for my sperm?
Have you and your partner found out that some of your sperm results are abnormal?
Maybe you were advised to start on male fertility supplements or are looking for recommendations that show success?
In this article, we explore if male fertility supplements work and how to choose the right supplement to boost your fertility.
Let's take a look at the evidence together!
Table of Contents
What is male fertility?
Infertility affects both men and women. Currently 1 in 6 couples will experience fertility problems, with 50% of fertility problems accountable to men.
Infertility in men is mainly assessed by semen analysis, which measures the following factors:
Sperm concentration, which is the total sperm count in one milliliter of semen
Sperm count, which is the total number of sperm in semen volume
Sperm morphology, which is the shape of the sperm, specifically looking at the head, neck and tail of the sperm
Sperm motility, which is how well the sperm swims. It also looks at progressive motility which shows how well sperm moves forward and in a straight line
Sperm vitality, which is the proportion of live and membrane-intact sperm in a semen volume
Sperm viscosity, which is the level of resistance for the seminal fluid to flow
Other aspects that may also be assessed are:
Sperm DNA fragmentation, which looks at the genetic material within the sperm. If the genetic material within the sperm are damaged, then this can have a real impact on whether the sperm can fertilize the egg and therefore whether couples are able to conceive
Antisperm Antibodies (ASA) build up as a response of the immune system. This means that antibodies can make the sperm stick together or prevent its movement. If these antibodies are present, it doesn't mean it's a cause of infertility but rather a result of an infection or trauma in the testes.
Hormonal imbalances, which can affect the development of the sperm
The scientific community understands very little about the biology of the sperm, but there is a continuous search for the best treatment to help couples conceive and have a baby in their arms.
Normally, it is common for couples to search for the best men's fertility supplements to help improve their chances of conceiving. Navigating the world of male fertility supplements can be challenging, making it difficult to identify the right supplement.
And you want to improve your diet before retesting your semen.
Image by Thomas Breher from Pixabay
What are male fertility supplements?
Supplements specifically marketed to improve male fertility are pills or capsules with a combination of vitamins and minerals and other nutrients like antioxidants. These formulations are designed by most companies based on clinical research. However, the specific formulation of a supplement may or may not have been proven to increase sperm parameters.
Supplements of course are meant to supplement your diet and not replace it.
So, if you are tempted to buy these fertility supplements, before you do, consider the following questions.
Do I ever need to take these supplements?
First, when you’re trying to conceive and considering whether supplements for men boost fertility, you need to be clear if there is an underlying problem and what specific problem or diagnosis you are trying to solve.
There are some important supplements for male fertility. Most of the supplements focus on the key nutrients that research has shown to improve sperm quality and potentially can help many couples to conceive. The most common nutrients which have also been found in healthy semen include: Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Carotenoids, Folate, Zinc, Selenium, Carnitine.
The list below does not include specific brands but it gives you a breakdown of specific nutrients where there is some evidence for different types of sperm quality. Yet, the available scientific evidence is limited for most of these supplements because often the number of research studies are very small, the dose is different and the number of people participating is also very small.
Further research is needed to ensure that correct and adequate supplementation will help to bring a baby home!
Hence, be cautious if you’re looking online to purchase supplements specific for male fertility.
Supplements that support overall male fertility
This includes improvements in sperm count, motility (movement), and morphology (shape).
L-carnitine, L-acetyl carnitine
Supplements to improve sperm count
CoQ10 / Co-Enzyme Q10 (Ubiquinone, Ubiquinol)
Supplements to improve sperm motility
CoQ10 (Ubiquinone, Ubiquinol)
Supplements to improve sperm morphology
The shape, size, and appearance of sperm
Supplements for sperm DNA fragmentation (sperm DNA damage)
CoQ10 (Ubiquinone, Ubiquinol)
Supplements for hormonal balance
CoQ10 (Ubiquinone, Ubiquinol)
Am I currently deficient in any of these nutrients?
As male fertility supplements contain nutrients, it is important to know if you need them as part of your diet. To find out what is your nutritional status right now or whether your dietary pattern provides sufficient vitamins and minerals, the first step is to do a blood test. This determines if you need to supplement your diet and what dose is required to meet your specific fertility needs.
Will I be taking adequate amounts or is there a risk of overdosing?
The only way to find out if your fertility supplements provide you with the right nutrients and the right amount to meet your fertility needs is to have a nutritional analysis of your diet. If you are deficient in any of the key fertility nutrients identified by a blood test (see section above), then it is a good time to work with a fertility dietitian to identify what is the impact of this on your fertility and what to do to improve it.
How many supplements do I need?
This would depend on if you can meet your fertility nutrition needs through your every day diet. An assessment by a fertility dietitian can provide you with a breakdown of how many, and if any, supplements you need.
Dietitians are unique in this field. They assess whether your diet contains sufficient nutrient levels through food sources and advise you how best to improve your diet and your daily nutrient requirements. They also assess your medical history and if any medications or conditions can impact nutrient absorption.
Dietitians can also check that if you require supplements, these are tailored to you and meet your individual vitamin and mineral requirements, without overdosing and causing you any unnecessary harm or discomfort. They can advise you when to take them as some medications or nutrients can interact with each other and reduce absorption from food (like iron and zinc).
How long should I take the supplements for?
Mature sperm takes on average 64 days to produce and an additional 10-14 days to ejaculation. During that time, there are a lot of lifestyle factors that can affect its development.
We know that if you’re eating well and meeting your fertility nutrition needs then it takes a minimum of 3 months to see improvement in fertility. This also means improvements in specific sperm parameters.
Research on specific supplements shows that the length of time to see a significant increase in count, morphology, motility and/ or sperm DNA fragmentation, can be as little as 6 weeks and up to 6 months.
If you are deficient in any nutrients, you have specific abnormalities with your sperm or you are undergoing assisted reproductive methods, a fertility dietitian will provide you with a nutrition plan to help you and a timeframe for how long to take the supplements for.
Are the supplements safe and of good quality?
There is such a vast amount of fertility supplements for men which of course range in cost. The supplements may only provide a one month supply and therefore some couples may be put off by the additional cost burden on their fertility journey.
If you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, or if you have a medical condition like Coeliac disease where you need to ensure your diet is gluten-free, then you will need to take supplements with specific certification, that is vegan, gluten-free and so on.
The quality of the supplement is assessed by:
- how many unnecessary fillers, toxins, additives and bulking agents they have, which provide no nutritional value and potentially can harm your fertility
- where the nutrients are coming from, and
- whether they are third-party tested to ensure they meet high quality standards.
Of course, the better the quality of the supplements, the more costly they will be. Supplement formulations are regularly changing, so you need to check the ingredients and nutritional information before you buy, so that you are certain you are getting all the nutrients you are expecting.
Male fertility supplements- do they really work?
There is a huge range of supplements marketed for men’s fertility. Many of them contain a combination of vitamins and minerals. Yet there is no consistency in the ingredients nor in levels of specific nutrients amongst supplements.
Most of the over-the -counter male fertility supplements include only 17% of the ingredients that have favourable outcomes for sperm health. This means there is a lack of clinical evidence to argue that these supplements actually work.
Supplements also can include nutrients in excess of what is healthy. Actually taking too many supplements with more antioxidants is not necessarily better, and potentially can damage your fertility.
Foods are natural supplements for male fertility [hyperlink later to the new bog], so improving your lifestyle and your diet is your best chance. My ultimate couple’s preconception checklist provides you with detailed information in 6 areas of your life that you can address right now to prepare you for a healthy baby.
Ready to take control of your fertility? Book a Personalized Nutrition Assessment now.
This in-depth session is your roadmap to boosting fertility, ensuring you're meeting your daily nutritional goals, and pinpointing the right supplements and doses for your unique needs.
In this article, we delved into the significance of supplements, common nutrients, and their potential impact. It is important to understand how to choose supplements by scrutinising supplement safety, quality, and their actual effectiveness. A balance diet is the foundation for fertility and if you need certainty on how to meet your nutritional needs then you can work with a fertility dietitian.
Dr Katie Psarou, PhD, MSc, BSc (Hons) RD MBDA
UK Registered Fertility and Maternal Health Dietitian