Class of ’74: A Discussion of Male Fertility
There’s a common misconception regarding fertility: That women have a finite number of eggs at birth which degrade over time, yet men produce millions of fresh sperm cells per day.
Stem cell research has proven women can generate new eggs during their lifespan; however, the theory that eggs have a “shelf life” seems to be supported by lower fertility rates, higher incidence of chromosomal abnormalities, and risk of miscarriage associated with pregnancies later in life.
Men do indeed produce sperm by the millions, which subsequently have their personal “gestation period” of approximately 74 days prior to maturation. During this period, they develop mitochondria and morph into an oval shape with a flagella (tail), which equips them for their journey to conception. This phase occurs within the epididymis, a duct-like reservoir behind the testes.
Even though sperm cells take on a life of their own, they’re still cells of the body, subject to exposure with the same nutrients, free radicals, and environmental toxins as cells throughout the body.
Men on the brink of fatherhood should consider tweaking their lifestyle for at least a few months to improve their chances for conception. Fertility experts start with recommending a “heart-healthy” lifestyle as being synonymous with a “sperm-friendly” lifestyle. Good nutrition, exercising on a regular basis, shunning tobacco, and consuming caffeine and alcohol in moderation are a great start.
There are also many vitamins, minerals, and special nutrients that elevate sperm count, protect their delicate DNA, and improve their shape and motility (ability to reach their destination). Let’s discuss them.
l-Carnitine is an amino acid that serves a dual role for male fertility, as it transports fatty acids into mitochondria (cellular powerplants) of cells throughout the body. This increases energy and sexual stamina, along with making individual sperm cells more vigorous and resistant to free radicals.
Coenzyme Q10, long considered a potent antioxidant and cofactor for energy production at the cellular level, is a must for heart health and for being the driving force for sperm motility. N-Acetylcysteine is another clinically proven antioxidant supportive of sperm production and motility.
Astaxanthin, a potent biologically active carotenoid produced by the microalgae Haematococcus pluvialis, ranks among the leading antioxidants to preserve sperm health and motility. It can also be found in salmon and shellfish, that rely on H. pluvialis as a food source. Astaxanthin is also featured in many formulas that focus on the preservation of vision and cardiovascular status. Lycopene is another robust carotenoid which protects sperm cells from free radicals.
A pilot study conducted in India has shown ashwagandha root to improve testosterone status in men, with the consequential benefit of increased sperm count and motility.
Avoiding vitamin deficiency is a great place to start for health in general. For future fathers, vitamins C and E are critical cofactors for sperm growth and motility. Zinc and selenium are an additional tandem of motility minerals that have an impact on the ability of sperm to reach its destination. Oysters and Brazil nuts are excellent dietary sources of both; they’re also common elements of male-fertility formulas.
When it comes to male fertility, leading a healthy lifestyle and loading up on reproductive-friendly nutrients will ensure you’re putting your best “genetic” foot forward. Embracing fatherhood, with all its wonders, is where the true challenge lies. Enjoy!
Gordon Raza, BSc
As the technical writer for Flourish, Gord shares his
unique perspective on natural health products, nutrition,
and active living.