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Guide to Male Fertility Supplements

male fertility supplements

“Male fertility supplements” or “sperm health supplements” are vitamins, minerals, and even herbs that support healthy sperm production. We’ve compiled information on the evidence behind each male fertility supplement below.

 

Table of contents:

Recommended male fertility supplements

CoQ10

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L-carnitine

L-carnitine is derived from an amino acid, the building blocks of proteins. It’s involved in the production of energy in the body, where it helps transport fatty acids into your cells’ mitochondria. L-carnitine is produced naturally in the body and is normally concentrated in the testis and epididymis (the structure in the testicles where sperm is stored).

Supplementation has been shown to improve sperm motility, possibly by supporting mitochondrial function. Several small studies (123)  examining the use of L-carnitine as a male fertility supplement, researchers found that administration of L-carnitine was associated with an increase in sperm motility for men dealing with asthenozoospermia (poor sperm motility), over 3–6 months.

In one trial, researchers found that L-carnitine supplementation was associated with improved motility and increased activity of acrosin, an enzyme at the tip of sperm that helps it penetrate the egg for fertilization. And in another, taking L-carnitine for several weeks prior to IVF with ICSI was shown to improve sperm quality and increase fertilization rates by 11.5%.

In addition, high concentrations of L-carnitine in the semen may protect sperm, especially during freezing. Lab studies demonstrated that adding L-carnitine to sperm improved motility, especially after freezing and thawing.

 

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is actually a hormone. It’s key for increasing our body’s absorption of calcium, magnesium, and phosphate, three essential minerals. It also may play a role in immune response, pregnancy loss, and male fertility, among other mechanisms. Vitamin D is not found in many foods, and humans are expected to acquire the majority of it from sun exposure. However—because our modern lives are mainly indoors, and we typically wear sunscreen to protect us against skin cancer—most people in the Western world are vitamin D deficient.

In fact, vitamin D deficiency is associated with lower semen parameters, though it’s not necessarily a causative relationship. In one study, researchers found that men with low levels of vitamin D in the blood had lower average sperm motility and poorer hormone profiles for fertility. Another study also found that vitamin D levels were correlated with sperm motility. (Other studies, however, have found no such connection.)

Studies suggest that supplementing with vitamin D may improve male fertility, though we don’t yet completely understand why. In one review, vitamin D supplementation was associated with a “consistent effect” on sperm quality, improving motility as well as capacitation (the final changes a sperm undergoes before fertilizing the egg).

In another study, vitamin D administration was also associated with improved motility for men with asthenozoospermia. And in a third study, infertile men treated with vitamin D showed increased sperm motility—by about double—as well as a significantly higher number of pregnancies.

 

Vitamin C

Also known as: ascorbic acid

A powerful antioxidant, vitamin C may protect sperm from damage. Supplementation for two months was associated with significant benefits for fertility: sperm count doubled, motility increased by 90%, and normal morphology increased by 50%.

Reactive oxygen species (ROS), or “free radicals,” are byproducts of normal metabolism, produced constantly within the body. While in healthy individuals, ROS levels are naturally kept low, unhealthy lifestyle choices, diseases, pollutants, and other stressors can lead to high levels of ROS. When ROS levels get too high, the body is placed in a state called oxidative stress, which can promote inflammation, injury, higher risk of chronic disease, and damage to sperm.

Vitamin C’s antioxidant effect can counteract the impact of ROS on the body, potentially improving sperm health. To that point, one study found that lower levels of vitamin C in semen correlate with poorer sperm morphology. That same research also found that infertile men were more likely than fertile men to have low levels of vitamin C in their semen.

One study found that taking 1,000mg supplements twice a day for two months was associated with doubled sperm counts, as well as motility increased by over 90%; sperm with normal morphology increased by 50%. Another study found that men with infertility who were assigned 250mg of vitamin C twice daily for three months had significantly better normal motility and morphology values than the control group.

Treatment with antioxidants such as vitamins C and E has also been associated with reduced sperm DNA fragmentation (genetic damage to sperm) and improved outcomes from fertility treatment. For example, in one small study, men who had already undergone one failed ICSI cycle were prescribed 2 months of C and E. For 29 of the 37 men, sperm genetic health improved after treatment, and the post-treatment ICSI cycle showed a marked increase in pregnancy rates.

Vitamin E

Similar to vitamin C, vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects sperm from free radical damage. Typically combined with other supplements, this vitamin is associated with improved sperm motility, morphology, and genetic health.

Another essential nutrient, vitamin E acts as a powerful antioxidant that can decrease oxidative stress in much the same way that vitamin C does. Although this vitamin is likely to have beneficial effects on reproductive health on its own, most studies examining the role of vitamin E as a male fertility supplement have combined supplementation with other antioxidants such as selenium or CoQ10.

One review examined the evidence for antioxidant supplements for sperm health. Researchers concluded that taking a combination of vitamin E and vitamin C was extremely effective in reducing sperm DNA fragmentation.

Another study found that after taking 400mg of vitamin E and 225ug of selenium for three months, levels of MDA (malondialdehyde)—a marker for oxidative stress—were greatly reduced in seminal plasma. Two additional studies (12) have examined the use of vitamin E and selenium together as a male fertility supplement. Both found that this combination of antioxidant supplementation was associated with improved semen parameters.

 

Folate

Also known as: folic acid, 5-MTHF (methyl folate)

Folate plays a critical role in reproductive health, as it is used in the creation, maturation, and development of sperm. Boosting folate levels may significantly increase sperm concentration.

Folate, a type of B-vitamin, is critical in a huge range of bodily processes, such as converting carbohydrates into energy, making red and white blood cells, and producing DNA and RNA. You may associate folate with pregnancy, as it is essential in the development of the baby’s brain and nervous system. However, it’s also incredibly important as a male fertility supplement, as it plays a role in the creation and maturation of sperm.

Low levels of folate in the semen is, in fact, associated with lower sperm quality. One study found that seminal levels of folate were inversely correlated with sperm DNA fragmentation—meaning that the lower the folate levels, the higher the number of sperm with genetic damage.

Supplementing with high doses of folate may be beneficial for sperm health. A 2017 review analyzing seven studies found strong evidence that folate supplementation was associated with increased sperm concentrations in men with fertility issues. This effect was even stronger when combined with zinc, and patients who received both nutrients had improved morphology as well.

Another study looked at the combination of folate, vitamin E, and selenium as a male fertility supplement for men who had previously had surgery to fix a varicocele (swollen veins in the scrotum). This study found that taking these three ingredients for 6 months was associated with a statistically significant improvement in sperm count and motility. Other studies have not found this association.

 

Selenium

Selenium has long been a staple in male fertility supplements, and for good reason. There’s solid evidence that selenium—alone or in combination with vitamins C and E or folate—may improve sperm count, motility, and morphology.

Selenium is an important trace mineral, a term that means you only need a very small amount, with antioxidant properties. This nutrient plays a key role in metabolism as well as reproductive health. One study determined that lower levels of selenium (as well as zinc) in semen was correlated with poor sperm quality.

Many studies have looked at combination therapies for infertility, such as selenium and vitamin E, A, or C, and found benefits to fertility—we’ve explored many of those above. Additional sources include a recent 2021 study that found sperm motility was improved after 3 months of daily selenium, vitamin E, and folic acid supplementation.

But a recent study aimed to evaluate selenium supplementation as a standalone therapy. Infertile men were prescribed 50μg (micrograms, not milligrams) of selenium once a day for three months; researchers found that sperm count, motility, vitality, and normal morphology were all noticeably increased after treatment, and levels of MDA—a marker of oxidative stress—significantly decreased. Additionally, they found higher levels of testosterone and glutathione, a powerful antioxidant, both of which could also benefit fertility. This backed up the results of earlier research, which found that 56% of men treated with selenium experienced improved sperm motility.

Lycopene

Lycopene is a potent antioxidant. There’s evidence that adding lycopene to your diet may improve many aspects of male fertility — including sperm count, viability, quality, and genetic health — as well as pregnancy rates.

Lycopene is the compound responsible for the red and pink hues of tomatoes and watermelon, among other fruits and vegetables. It’s an antioxidant that can protect cells in the body from oxidative stress. While we can get lycopene from our food — pizza sauce and ketchup are actually the most common sources of lycopene in the American diet — it may also be valuable to boost lycopene intake with a male fertility supplement.

A 2014 review of several small studies of lycopene’s impact on male fertility found that, when consumed in the form of a supplement, lycopene was associated with decreased oxidative stress and sperm DNA damage and increased sperm count, concentration, motility, and morphology. This review looked at studies of both healthy men and men diagnosed with infertility.

More recent studies support the use of lycopene for sperm improvement and fertility protection, as well. Animal studies demonstrate that, in rats who were exposed to toxins common in agriculture, lycopene supplementation had a protective effect for the testes and sperm quality. In one placebo-controlled trial of 44 infertile men with oligozoospermia (low sperm count), supplementing with 25mg of lycopene was associated with a significant increase in sperm concentration.

 

D-aspartic acid (D-AA)

D-AA regulates testosterone release. Three months of supplementation nearly doubled sperm concentration and increased motility by over 50%.

Not to be confused with aspartic acid, D-aspartic acid is an amino acid that’s concentrated in some body tissues and cells, such as testicles and sperm cells. Although there’s no definitive consensus on the issue, some studies suggest that D-AA may be used as a male fertility supplement.

Researchers noticed that levels of D-AA in semen were much lower in infertile men than in healthy controls. This is likely due to D-AA’s effect on testosterone levels; it seems to have a role in regulating the release and synthesis of testosterone, which can have powerful effects on reproductive health. In fact, one study showed that supplementing with D-AA for 90 days significantly increased the concentration and motility of sperm, nearly doubling concentration and boosting motility by over 50%. Ultimately, this led to an improvement in the rate of pregnancies in their partners.

Zinc

Zinc is a critical player in male reproductive health. Zinc supplementation is associated with increases in sperm volume, motility, and normal morphology.

Commonly described as one of the most essential elements for male fertility, zinc is involved in a number of critical reproductive processes, such as spermatogenesis (sperm production), sperm stability, and testosterone release. Deficiencies in zinc may impede spermatogenesis and negatively impact testosterone levels, and can give rise to a number of sperm abnormalities. 

It has been repeatedly shown that zinc concentrations in seminal plasma from infertile males is significantly lower than those from normal controls. Furthermore, zinc supplementation has been associated with a significant increase in semen volume, sperm motility, and normal sperm morphology — especially in combination with folate, according to multiple studies.

 

Other ingredients

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha increases serum levels of beneficial hormones such as testosterone. Three months of supplementation increased sperm counts by 167%, motility by 57%, and semen volume by 53%.

Also known as Indian ginseng, ashwagandha is an adaptogen, a plant known to help the body resist stress and promote healing; it’s been linked to a number of health benefits, especially related to anxiety. However, one of its most prominent benefits is its effect on testosterone. Ashwagandha can significantly increase testosterone levels, possibly by increasing the activity of natural endogenous antioxidants. This makes it useful as a male fertility supplement.

One study demonstrated that supplementation with ashwagandha increased seminal concentrations of testosterone, LH, and FSH. Both LH and FSH are important in stimulating the testes to produce testosterone and sperm. Another study showed that consuming 675mg of ashwagandha a day for three months improved both semen parameters and serum levels of beneficial hormones. Sperm count improved by 167%, semen volume by 53%, and sperm motility by 57%. Both testosterone and LH levels were also elevated after 90 days.

Fenugreek

Fenugreek improves free testosterone levels, with increases of up to 46% after three months of supplementation. This benefits sperm parameters such as count and morphology, and boosts libido.

This herb, often found in your kitchen, has potent medicinal properties, and can be found in many male fertility supplements. Extracts derived from fenugreek seeds have been shown to have significant effects on hormone regulation and reproductive health.

One study examined the effects of Furosap, made from fenugreek seeds, on testosterone levels and sperm profile. Supplementation of 500mg per day for 12 weeks showed a 46% increase in free testosterone levels, as well as benefits on sperm count and morphology. Another study aimed to evaluate Testofen, another extract of fenugreek, on improving sexual function in healthy aging males. They found that after supplementation with 600mg for 12 weeks, serum and free testosterone were higher and sexual function improved with an increase in libido.

 

Maca root powder

A natural aphrodisiac, maca root powder may also be beneficial as a male fertility supplement, increasing both sperm concentration and motility after 12 weeks of supplementation.

This plant, native to Peru, has a long history of culinary and medicinal use—it has traditionally been consumed for its high nutrition content and its ability to enhance libido. However, it may also be great for sperm health. One study gave men 1.75g of maca for 12 weeks to observe its effects on fertility. They found that both sperm concentration and motility were increased gradually throughout the treatment period, without any significant change in serum hormone levels.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids have been found to improve measures of fertility. Supplementation for 32 weeks leads to a significant improvement in sperm concentration, total count, and motility, as well as protective antioxidant effects.

Omega 3s are more than just male fertility supplements—these fatty acids have been shown to have a myriad of health benefits, including everything from easing depression to controlling asthma. Found primarily in fish, omega-3s (especially EPA and DHA) are crucial for proper body functioning. When it comes to male reproductive health, omega-3s are essential in enhancing antioxidant activity in seminal fluid, as well as serving as important structural components of cell membranes.

One 2010 study explored the relationship between both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and idiopathic (unexplained) male infertility. They found that infertile men generally had a higher ratio of omega-6s compared to omega-3s, and that lower levels of omega-3s correlated with decreased sperm quality. Another study demonstrated that supplementing with omega-3s for 32 weeks led to a dramatic improvement in sperm concentration.

recent systematic review of omega-3 fatty acids as a male fertility supplement examined three studies that treated infertile men with EPA and DHA and observed their effects on semen parameters. They found that supplementation with omega-3s increased sperm motility significantly, and that higher levels of DHA in seminal plasma contributed to a protective effect for the sperm.

Tribulus terrestris

Tribulus terrestris can enhance libido and has beneficial effects on semen parameters such as count, motility, and morphology.

Also known as puncturevine, tribulus terrestris has long been used as an aphrodisiac, a substance that stimulates sexual desire. While this on its own may enhance the chances of conceiving, puncturevine may also function as a male fertility supplement that improves sperm health and enhances the effects of testosterone.

One review looked at seven different clinical studies, concluding that consumption of tribulus terrestris was effective at improving the number, motility, and morphology of sperm samples from men with infertility.

Tips for taking male fertility supplements

  • Talk to your doctor before you start any new supplement, to ensure it’s okay for your specific health conditions and doesn’t interact with any medication you may already be taking.
  • Remember that spermatogenesis, the process of producing sperm, takes about 2–3 months. Depending on the supplement, you may need to take it regularly for 12 weeks or more before you see an impact.
  • You should understand your individual fertility health before you start a supplementation regimen. A great way to do that is by taking an at-home sperm analysis with Legacy.
References
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