Oxidative stress and sperm quality
Compared to the previous generation, men have significantly worse fertility. This is because today’s men must deal with increased stress, pesticides in foods, plastics, and harsh environments. These negative stressors result in oxidative stress (OS), meaning excess free radicals in the body. Free radicals damage cells, including the cells that create sperm. Studies show that millions of men with infertility may have excess oxidative stress. While oxidative stress may not affect sperm count, the damage affects the quality of the sperm.
Why do you need antioxidants?
Antioxidants are the body’s fighters against oxidative stress (OS). These substances protect against free radicals, often responsible for heart disease, certain cancers, and even infertility. Common antioxidants include vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, CoQ-10, and Omega-3 fatty acids. The body can produce some antioxidants but most comes from the diet, specifically fruits and vegetables. When the rest of the body suffers damage from OS, there are insufficient antioxidants in the body.
Can it improve sperm quality?
Scientists are divided on the effectiveness of antioxidants in improving sperm. Some studies show that antioxidants like zinc, folic acid, vitamin C, and others positively affect sperm quality. Even subfertile men showed improvement in sperm quality and live birth rates. Recent studies, however, dispute the effectiveness of antioxidants on sperm markers. Despite the confusion, increased antioxidants undoubtedly improve overall health by reducing OS. Therefore, healthier men should produce healthier sperm.
Antioxidants may not be enough
Bulking up on blueberries and broccoli may not be enough for transforming sperm quality. For men struggling to get pregnant, seeing a reproductive specialist should be a critical step. The doctor can do a full assessment to determine the root cause of infertility. If there is a clear issue, the doctor can provide treatment, including medication and surgery. For unexplained infertility, a fertility doctor can move to techniques like intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF).
A holistic approach to male-factor infertility
Infertility can be emotionally taxing for men and partners. While there could be many reasons, the increase in oxidative stress can make things worse. Antioxidants like zinc, vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, and others, can significantly reduce those free radicals. Increasing antioxidants may improve sperm quality, along with a healthy diet and exercise. At the same time, men struggling with fertility should see a reproductive endocrinologist for treatments that can help with live births.