Understanding Male Fertility

male infertilityMale infertility appears to be a rising problem in today’s society, with more more than 2.5 million men in the UK reported to be suffering from the condition, and roughly one in six couples unable to conceive a pregnancy easily. In the past, it was commonly perceived to be more of a female problem, but statistics show that almost half of infertility cases are due to issues with the male, and more and more couples are seeking medical help to combat this problem.

Reasons of Low Male Fertility

The causes of male infertility vary hugely. Low sperm count in semen, decreased mobility of sperm, or abnormal shape or development of sperm are common causes of the condition. The two main causes are considered the increasing amounts of toxins in our environment and poor, unbalanced diets, which don’t deliver enough nutrients to protect our bodies – and sperm cells – from the toxins.
Some men suffer from a condition known as Hypogonadism, which essentially results in a much lower than normal amount of testosterone produced in the body. Infections, cancers or traumas of the testes can also severely affect the quality of semen.
A range of lifestyle factors such as heavy smoking, chronic abuse of alcohol, use of drugs including anabolic steroids or certain prescribed medications with adverse side effects, can also increase one’s risk of becoming infertile.
However, around 50% of male infertility is idiopathic, that is, the exact cause of the condition cannot be identified. As previously mentioned, lifestyle plays an important role in fertility of men. Factors such as diet, exercise, alcohol and smoking can all have positive or adverse effects depending on how they are used and the extent to which they are used. Focusing on one’s diet, there are a range of key nutrients which can be used to help tackle this condition.

The Three Key Amino Acids for Male Fertility

Amino acids are vital components of a healthy diet, and research has shown that orally supplementing certain specific amino acids in males with suboptimal sperm can notably increase fertility.
Arginine in sperm cell headArginine is among the most common of the 20 naturally occurring amino acids. It plays an important role in the health of the body’s circulatory system, and is also reported to improve vitality of sperm. The head of the sperm is composed of a large amount of protein compounds, some of which have a high arginine content. To function correctly, and adequately fuse with the ovum of the female and fuse during the process of fertilisation, the sperm head needs to be fully developed.

Studies show that a lack of arginine can cause abnormal shaping of the sperm head, as well as less than optimal numbers of sperm. This can impede fertilisation. Supplementation of this amino acid, especially in combination with Vitman E, has been shown to dramatically increase the number of properly developed sperm cells1.

Carnitine is a quaternary ammonium compound which is biosynthesised from the two amino acids methionine and lysine. In human body cells, it is used to shuttle fatty acids from the cytoplasm into the mitochondria, in order to use lipids to generate ATP for use as energy. When supplemented in men with low fertility levels, it was shown to improve semen quality, sperm count and concentration as well as sperm motility2.

Glutathione is an important antioxidant in the body, which proves important in protection of sperm cells. Sperm are subject to oxidative attack by free radicals, which are highly unstable, reactive elements produced during various chemical reactions in the body. Serving as an antioxidant, glutathione prevents free radicals from damaging the DNA carried in the sperm. Supplementation of glutathione and other similar antioxidants have been shown to reduce the stress on sperm cells from oxidative attack.

Although male infertility is a highly complex condition with a range of causes, there are supplements available that can significantly help sufferers, or prevent the condition from arising in men who are currently fertile.

Related Studies:

  1. “Effects of L-Arginine, Vitamin E and Their Combinations on Sperms Morphology in Albino Male Mice. Journal of Al-Nahrain University, Vol.14 (2), June, 2011, pp.137-143”
  2. “Lenzi A, Lombardo F, Sgro P, Salacone P, Caponecchia L, Dondero F, Gandini L (2003). Use of carnitine therapy in selected cases of male factor infertility: a double-blind crossover trial. Fertility and Sterility 79 (2): 292–300. PMID 12568837”