Vitamin C and Sperm
Smoking generates massive amounts of free radicals, so smokers are especially vulnerable to sperm damage. They need at least twice as much dietary vitamin C as non-smokers.
Men who smoke 20 or more cigarettes per day have blood vitamin C levels that are up to 40 per cent lower than non-smokers. They also have sperm counts that are 17 per cent lower, reduced sperm motility and a greater percentage of abnormal sperm.
Vitamin E and Sperm
High-dose vitamin E has been tested as a treatment for subfertility in men. By mopping up superoxide free radicals, doses as high as 600 mg vitamin E per day have shown a significant benefit on sperm numbers.
This leaves vitamin E in an inactive form which is rapidly reactivated by vitamin C. It is therefore important for men to obtain adequate dietary supplies of both vitamins.
Betacarotene and Sperm
Vitamin A is thought to be important for sperm maturation as they pass through the epididymis. Vitamin A can bind to sperm at special receptor sites and seems to enter the egg at fertilization. Sperm vitamin A may be important during the early stages of foetal development.
Zinc and Sperm
Zinc is an antioxidant mineral that is also important in protecting sperm against free radical attack. Semen is rich in zinc, with each ejaculate containing 5 mg one third of the recommended daily nutrient intake.
This would imply that it plays an important role in sperm health. Three additional functions of zinc have been discovered apart from its important antioxidant one.
Alcohol and Sperm
As much as 40 per cent of male subfertility has been blamed on moderate alcohol intake. Alcohol damps down testosterone secretion and also hastens its conversion to oestrogen in the liver. This can lead to lowered sperm counts and a decreased sex drive.
Research shows that refraining from alcohol brings sperm counts up to normal within three months in 50 per cent of men with subfertility. Sperm motility also improves.
Exercise and Sperm
It is well known that excessive exercise can affect the fertility of female athletes by stopping the normal menstrual cycle (a condition known as 'runners' amenorrhoea'). New research shows that overtraining can damp down fertility in males, too.
Immediately after overtraining, their sperm counts fell by as much as 43 per cent. After three months, sperm counts had dropped to 52 per cent lower than before they overtrained. The number of immature and non-viable sperm increased. All semen samples stayed within the accepted fertile range, however, and this would not be expected to interfere with fertility except where sperm counts were already low.
Photo Credit: Lorien's Man Pills, by GoldenEel / Robin DeGrassi James
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