By: Hannah Horne-Robinson, an MSc Education in Digital and Social Change student at the University of Oxford and fertility care access advocate. Reviewed by Jack Fertility CSO, Maryam Rahbar, MSc, DPhil (pending), January 2023.
Since supplements are, well, supplemental, they are not a necessity! Generally most people with a healthy diet and lifestyle do not need to take supplements. You can get most of the nutrients you need from having a balanced diet. If you are interested in improving or maintaining your fertility, eating a wide variety of multicoloured vegetables and healthy sources of protein and fats is key.
However, that is not always easy! For example, if you are a vegetarian or vegan you may need to seek some nutrients elsewhere. Supplements can be expensive and they are not regulated. Some supplements sold could be completely useless while some could be harmful.
If you are interested in taking supplements, pay careful attention to the quality of the brand and discuss your options with your doctor. In this post, we will discuss some of the supplements that are commonly associated with male fertility.
The tried and true
Vitamin D helps promote the growth and development of bones and teeth as it regulates the amount of calcium and phosphate in your body. The UK government advises that everyone should consider taking a daily vitamin D supplement during the winter. There is also a lot of research on the links between vitamin D and fertility. While the direct relationship is still unknown, low vitamin D could indirectly influence male reproductive hormones such as testosterone. Vitamin D may also affect sperm motility.
Omegas 3, 6 and 9 have many benefits for the organs in the body. If you are a pescatarian you likely are getting enough Omega 3! Otherwise omega supplements like fish oil can be a helpful addition to your diet. Omegas affect sperm because they can be incorporated into the membrane of sperm cells and the integrity of the membrane is important for fertilisation. An increase in Omega 3 and Omega 6 results in better sperm count and motility. Although some studies suggest that the ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 is also important.
Many studies have shown that taking a daily antioxidant improves sperm quality.
One review study found that people with sperm who took antioxidant supplements greatly increased their chance of conceiving. This is likely because oxidative stress harms the morphology, motility and the integrity of the DNA insperm.
There are many different antioxidants including vitamins C and E which are found in most daily multivitamins. Zinc, folate and selenium assist antioxidant enzymes. Luckily, most multivitamins will contain a good mix! Check that yours has the desired or recommended daily amount.
Note that folate and folic acid are both forms of vitamin B9, but folate is the naturally occurring form, found in certain vegetables like avocados and spinach. Methylfolate is thought to be more easily absorbed than folic acid but it is generally more expensive and harder to find.
CoQ10 is a natural antioxidant. It is either in its reduced form (ubiquinol) or oxidised (ubiquinone). It plays a role in the energy production by the mitochondria. The reduced form of CoQ10 has the ability to act as an antioxidant and increase sperm motility and count.
R-Alpha Lipoic Acid
This is also an antioxidant but is generally not included in multivitamins. Studies show that it can protect sperm from oxidative damage and can increase sperm count, sperm concentration, and motility.
Yet another antioxidant! A review study found that taking N-Acetyl Cysteine daily improved sperm concentration, motility and morphology.
If you choose to take supplements, consider taking a semen analysis test before starting and 3 months later to check on the effects.
The tried and true supplements can be bought from general pharmacy stores like Boots. You may need to search health stores or online for the experimental supplements.
Most supplements should be taken at the same time everyday. Some are better taken with food and some on an empty stomach. Think about the time of day that is easiest for you to remember to take them, and set custom alarms on your device of choice. If your partner is also taking medication and/or supplements, consider doing it together as a ritual.
Keep the bottles in the same place. If you only need to take one tablet from each bottle you can easily line them up. If your dosages end up being more complicated it might be easier to divide them out by the right dosages for each day. You can buy a pill caddy or reuse old bottles to organise them.