5 Nutrition & Lifestyle Tips to Improve Male Fertility
Infertility is an issue affecting both men and women. In 2010, an estimated 48.5 million couples worldwide were unable to conceive a child after five years.1 Male infertility related to physiological, genetic, environmental and/or social factors accounts for about 50 percent of infertility found in couples.1, 2
Most recently, there has been a push to better understand the crucial role lifestyle habits play in improving fertility among the male population.
The elements associated with male fertility are complex, and the following requirements must be met in order for pregnancy to occur. 3
- For sperm to be healthy, testosterone must be produced.
- Sperm must be carried into the semen.
- Enough sperm must be present in the semen.
- Sperm must be functional and mobile.
To enhance male fertility, both hormonal health and sperm quality need to be considered. Here are some of the science-backed nutrition and lifestyle modifications that are positively associated with male fertility:
- Get Plenty of Vitamin C: Vitamin C plays an important role in the antioxidant system that protects sperm from damage by free radicals. A study conducted on young, healthy men found that vitamin C can have a positive effect on semen volume and sperm count.4 Vitamin C-rich foods include citrus, kale, kiwi and papaya, just to name a few.
- Exercise Regularly: Regular physical activity has been shown to improve erectile dysfunction and increase testosterone levels; aerobic exercise that is moderate to vigorous seems to be the most effective.5 However, it is worth noting that continuous cycling has been found to decrease motile sperm and sperm concentration.6
- Eat More Fish: Studies have found that fish consumption can result in higher sperm count and functionally healthier sperm. Additionally, researchers have found semen parameters to be much higher when fish, rather than processed red meat, is consumed.7
- Limit Caffeine: It has been suggested that drinking more than 800 mg of caffeine per day may reduce sperm quality.8 A 2017 analysis concluded that higher doses of coffee may negatively affect male reproductive health, potentially by damaging DNA.9 Bottom line: Don’t go overboard with coffee.
- Relax & Take a Deep Breath: Prolonged stress can raise cortisol levels. When cortisol goes up, testosterone levels usually go down.10 Managing stress can be as simple as getting out in nature, reading a book or enjoying time with loved ones.
Although fertility is not always treatable, research generally shows that a healthful diet and lifestyle can boost men’s ability to reproduce. So if the thought of taking medications doesn’t appeal to you, try out a more holistic route.
The American Pregnancy Association is committed to reproductive health and awareness. Call them at 800.672.2296 or email them firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
- Agarwal, A., Mulgund, A., Hamada, A. and Chyatte, M. (2015a) A unique view on male infertility around the globe. Reprod Biol Endocrinol 13: 37.
- Katz DJ, Teloken P, Shoshany O. Male infertility – The other side of the equation. Aust Fam Physician 2017;46(9):641–46
- How common is male infertility, and what are its causes? National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/menshealth/conditioninfo/infertility. Accessed Aug. 8, 2018.
- Minguez-Alarcon, L., Mendiola, J, Lopez-Espin, J.J., Sarabia-Cos, L., Vivero-Salmerón, G., Vioque, J., Navarrete-Muñoz, E.M., & Torres Cantero, A.M. (2012) Dietary intake of antioxidant nutrients is associated with semen quality in young university students. Hum Reprod. 27, 2807–2814.
- Duca, Y, Calogero, AE, Cannarella, R, et al. Erectile dysfunction, physical activity and physical exercise: Recommendations for clinical practice. Andrologia. 2019;e13264.
- Jung A, Strauss P, Lindner HJ, Schuppe HC. Influence of moderate cycling on scrotal temperature. Int J Androl. 2008;31:403–7.
- Afeiche, M.C., Gaskins, A.J., Williams, P.L., Toth, T.L., Wright, D.L., Tanrikut, C., Hauser, R., & Chavarro, J.E. (2014) Processed meat intake is unfavorably and fish intake favorably associated with semen quality indicators among men attending a fertility clinic. J Nutr. 144, 1091–1098.
- Dias, T.R., Alves, M.G., Bernardino, R.L., Martins, A.D., Moreira, A.C., Silva, J., et al. (2015) Dose-dependent effects of caffeine in human Sertoli cells metabolism and oxidative profile: relevance for male fertility. Toxicology. 328, 12–20.
- Jensen, T.K., Swan, S.H., Skakkebak, N.E., Rasmussen, S., & Jørgensen, N. (2010) Caffeine intake and semen quality in a population of 2,554 young Danish men. Am J Epidemiol. 171, 883–891.
- A. V. McGrady (1984) Effects of Psychological Stress on Male Reproduction: A Review, Archives of Andrology, 13:1, 1-7.