Vitamins to Improve Sperm Count

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    Fertility among males can be a seemingly daunting challenge. The good news is there are plenty of options to make parenting possible.

    If you want fertility support you are not the only one. Approximately 10% of all men (people with penises) who are trying to conceive are facing the same challenges. The best way to make informed choices is to get informed.

    Why does sperm count and volume matter

    When it comes to reproduction, sperm count and volume are especially important. Think of it as a numbers game: the more sperm present, the higher the odds one will successfully reach and fertilize an egg. A higher sperm count ensures that there’s a robust team of swimmers making the journey toward the egg, while volume indicates a healthy amount of the supporting fluid that carries the swimmers. Notably, when the sperm concentration dips below 15 million per milliliter, the chances of conception decrease.

    A sufficient sperm count and volume are indicative of a man’s overall health, influenced by factors ranging from genetics and lifestyle to age, hydration, and diet. While there are many factors that can affect male fertility, there are a number of vitamins and dietary supplements that can potentially enhance male fertility by improving various sperm parameters. Of course, there is no guarantee and you should always consult your doctor before adding a new supplement to your routine. Here we will take a look at what the research says about some of the most popular ones.

    21 vitamins that might help increase sperm count and volume

    1. Vitamin C

    This study showed that vitamin C supplementation in infertile men might improve sperm count, motility, and morphology. This could potentially improve the quality of semen, leading to conception. While one study showed that the antioxidant properties in vitamin C could improve sperm count and motility, other research noted that vitamin C supported sperm motility and morphology but not overall sperm count. Individual factors, like genetics and other health parameters, will affect how nutrients support healthy fertility. Only your medical provider can determine what is likely to be most effective for you.

    2. Vitamin D

    Lower levels of vitamin D are associated with poor semen quality (lower sperm count and motility), according to this study. However, research that tested whether vitamin D affects testosterone levels did not find a direct link. Still, vitamin D is well-established to support overall bone health, which has indirect impacts on overall wellness. You can increase your levels of vitamin D naturally by spending time in the sun during peak hours, or by consuming vitamin D-rich foods like fish, eggs, and cheese.

    3. Vitamin E

    As an antioxidant, vitamin E may improve semen quality and have beneficial and protective effects, especially on sperm motility. One study of vitamin E along with other nutrients reported that men who had significantly reduced oxidative stress and improved sperm motility after 3 months. A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials found that vitamin E increased total sperm count but did not affect concentration. After 6 months, the same meta-analysis found that vitamin E could support sperm motility.

    4. Folate

    Folate has shown a mixed bag of results. One study found that a combination of folic acid and zinc improved sperm count, while other research on both nutrients found that folate did not improve fertility. A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials in humans that assessed sperm parameters did not find any differences after 5 mg per day of folic acid supplementation.

    5. Lycopene

    Lycopene is a powerful red carotenoid pigment with antioxidant properties naturally found in most red and pink foods, like tomatoes and watermelon. Lycopene is able to promote glutathione levels, which is important for reducing oxidative stress. In turn, this can help promote the quality and quantity of sperm.

    6. Selenium

    Selenium is an important mineral for thyroid health, which can impact overall sperm health. This study confirmed that selenium supplementation in sub-fertile subjects can improve sperm motility and chance of impregnation. Selenium is often included in most multivitamins, but it can also be found in foods like chicken, eggs, nuts, and mushrooms.

    7. L-Carnitine

    L-carnitine is made in the body from a combination of two amino acids (methionine and lysine). It is known for its ability to turn fat into energy and it can also contribute to sperm health. According to this study, L-carnitine helps with sperm motility, but it does not change sperm volume or concentration.

    8. CoQ10

    Coenzyme Q10, also known as CoQ10, is a naturally occurring compound in the body that plays a role in cellular energy production. This study contends that CoQ10 has a beneficial effect on seminal quality, especially regarding sperm motility. Another study reported that semen parameters in subjects who took 400 mg of CoQ10 were greatly improved compared to those who took 200 mg.

    9. Vitamin B12

    According to this study, vitamin B12 can increase both sperm count and motility. B12 can be obtained through a number of foods, such as beef, poultry, salmon, eggs, and some breakfast cereals. Those who primarily consume a plant-based diet may need to supplement with a B12 vitamin.

    10. Zinc

    Zinc is essential in spermatogenesis, which is the biological process of producing sperm cells. Its high concentration in seminal fluid (approximately 30 times higher than in blood) suggests a link to semen quality, potentially through its antioxidant functions. A population-based study of young men in one country found that higher zinc levels in semen were also associated with better overall sperm parameters. However, because the study was not designed to prove causation, more research is needed to know how zinc supplementation could directly affect changes to sperm count, morphology, and motility.

    11. Ashwagandha

    Ashwagandha is used in Ayurvedic medicine for stress, strain, and overall general health. According to this study, it has the potential to support sperm count and motility. It is generally taken in capsule form. Care/of’s ashwagandha supports sexual wellness.

    12. Maca

    Maca is an adaptogenic herb found in the Andes Mountains that supports energy and fitness performance. It has also been taken for male fertility support, postmenopausal health issues, and boosting sexual desire.

    In this study, semen volume increased by 9% and normal morphology of sperm increased by 21% after 12 weeks. Another study of 9 healthy men found that after 16 weeks, maca supplementation increased sperm concentration by 35%, total sperm count by 84%, and motile sperm count by 109%.

    13. Fenugreek

    Fenugreek is an herb that has been found to boost testosterone levels and improve sexual function in men (and other people with penises). This study reports that fenugreek can improve free testosterone and sperm count, as well as promote mental alertness and cardiovascular health.

    14. Shilajit

    Shilajit is a mineral-rich resin derived from high mountain rocks. In this study, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and testosterone levels increased after 90-day supplementation with shilajit. FSH and testosterone are two hormones that play a role in stimulating sperm production.

    15. Omega-3 Fatty acids

    According to findings from this study, omega-3 supplementation might result in higher antioxidant activity in human seminal fluid and enhanced sperm count, motility, and morphology.

    16. N-acetylcysteine (NAC)

    N-acetylcysteine, also referred to as NAC, has shown potential to support healthy sperm. NAC is the precursor to the amino acid L-cysteine and possesses antioxidant-like properties. The body uses NAC to make glutathione in the liver, which is known as the “master antioxidant.” This function is critical for protecting cells, including sperm, from oxidative stress.

    In a 3-month randomized, double-blind clinical trial composed of 50 men, NAC was found to support healthy sperm count, motility, and even hormone balance. These findings shed a positive light on NAC for sperm support, but larger, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies still need to be done to know more.

    Our bodies are able to synthesize NAC on their own from other amino acids, such as methionine and serine. You can increase these levels further by obtaining NAC from foods like poultry, dairy, eggs, legumes, and sunflower seeds. You can also purchase NAC in supplement form, with typical doses ranging from 300-600 mg daily.

    17. Tribulus terrestris

    Tribulus terrestris is an herb that has been used in both Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic medicine. This powerful plant contains bioactive compounds like saponins and flavonoids, which are known for having numerous health benefits. Among these benefits are antioxidant activity and immune system function.

    In a study involving 65 men, the consumption of Tribulus terrestris had several positive outcomes: a reduction in body fat, an increase in lean mass, improved hormone balance, and an enhanced improvement in sperm concentration and motility. However, this study wasn’t placebo-controlled or blinded. There is a definite need for larger studies with a better design to be able to prove these findings.

    A review of seven individual studies further cemented Tribulus’ reputation in the realm of male fertility. This review found that in six out of the seven studies, Tribulus enhanced various sperm parameters, including number, motility, and morphology.

    Further, in vitro research shows that Tribulus can enhance sperm motility, sperm count, and viability. Animal research that was conducted with Tribulus found that it can enhance male fertility by increasing sperm count.

    18. D-aspartic acid

    D-aspartic acid is a naturally occurring form of the amino acid, aspartic acid. Our bodies have the capability to synthesize aspartic acid on their own, but we can also obtain it from food, specifically any protein-rich sources.

    Unlike many other amino acids, D-aspartic acid isn’t primarily used as a protein building block. Instead, its roles lie in supporting the nervous system and endocrine tissues. Both in vitro and animal research have suggested that D-aspartic acid supports testosterone synthesis and male fertility. However, it's important to approach these findings with caution, especially since human studies have been somewhat contradictory. Some studies suggest that it increases testosterone, while others in resistance-trained or athletic people born male have actually reported that it reduces testosterone.

    Another study involving 60 men with fertility challenges found that D-aspartate improved the number and motility of sperm, leading to enhanced pregnancy rates. Still, this study still had its flaws. It was neither placebo-controlled nor double-blind.

    19. Epimedium (Horny Goat Weed)

    Epimedium, also known as “horny goat weed,” is an herb with limited evidence of health benefits. Some chemicals contained within epimedium have been proposed to aid in maintaining healthy blood flow and possibly supporting sexual function. Human trials have not demonstrated translatable benefits.

    One of the main bioactive compounds in epimedium is a flavonoid known as icariin. Animal research has found that icariin may support reproductive health by supporting healthy cell responses and healthy testicles. However, these findings are in preliminary stages, with human trials still needed for confirmation.

    There have been both in vitro and animal studies suggesting that epimedium can have positive effects on erectile health. But, if you are interested in giving this herb a try, a word of caution is in order. Epimedium has the potential to interact with various medications, as well as other supplements and substances. It would be best to consider some of the other herbs and supplements on this list that have more concrete data.

    20. Mucuna pruriens

    Mucuna pruriens, also known as velvet bean, is an herbal supplement made from a bean native to Asia, Africa, and South America. This herb is widely favored due to its high L-dopa content, alongside other phytochemicals. L-dopa is a precursor to dopamine, the neurotransmitter responsible for motivation and pleasure.

    Preliminary evidence suggests that velvet bean can support healthy sperm motility and concentration. There was a study that observed both animals and 20 humans, testing an herbal combination of mucuna with two other herbs. It provided intriguing results, including improvements in sperm parameters and a 50% pregnancy rate. But the study had important limitations. It was not double-blind or placebo-controlled, and because there were 3 ingredients, it is not possible to know which of them may have provided benefits. Another study that compared men with healthy fertility to men with fertility challenges found that 5 grams of mucuna daily for three months helped to normalize sperm parameters in the infertility group. However, the study was not placebo-controlled so larger, randomized trials are needed to replicate these results.

    21. Pine bark extract

    Pine bark extract is another herb that’s touted for its benefits for men's health. However, there are a few caveats to consider. Many studies on this herb have conflicts of interest, meaning that the studies were either funded by the supplement manufacturer, have an open-label or poor design, or have not been able to be replicated.

    The most consistent finding tied to pine bark extract is its potential role in supporting healthy erectile function. But even here, there's a twist. Most of the research pairs pine bark with L-arginine, a supplement already known to support erectile function on its own. So, how much of the benefit can be truly credited to pine bark?

    Case in point: a study that observed 50 men. This research, though double-blind, randomized, and placebo-controlled (the gold standard!), involved a combination of supplements: pine bark, L-arginine, L-citrulline, and roburins. The results? Improvements across the board - from sperm volume to vitality to morphology. But, with so many ingredients in the mix, it's tough to single out how much of the positive outcome was solely due to pine bark extract. It leaves us with more questions than answers about the real power of this herb when it comes to male fertility.

    When to take vitamins to increase sperm count and volume

    There is no magic pill that will increase your sperm count and volume overnight. The general consensus ranges from 3 to 5 months but always comes with the suggestion to consult your healthcare provider before adding a supplement for fertility to your regimen. There is no guarantee that vitamins will affect sperm count or volume.

    Other lifestyle tips to increase sperm volume

    Lifestyle changes like smoking cessation, reducing alcohol intake, healthy eating, exercise, weight management, avoiding toxic lubricants during intercourse, and ensuring right scrotal temperature can all help improve male factor fertility.

    Seek advice from a healthcare professional

    You should always consult a healthcare professional before adding supplements to your routine and especially if you are experiencing health issues. Generally, if you have been trying to impregnate your partner with unprotected intercourse for a year and have not been successful, it’s time to see a healthcare professional. If the woman (person with a uterus) is over the age of 35, they should consult their physician after 6 months of trying. If you know of an underlying health condition or situation that could be impacting fertility, it is best to see your doctor as soon as you want to attempt impregnation.

    The Bottom Line

    Problems with fertility can be a difficult journey. You face a number of options, each of which can seem daunting. It is important to get all the facts before you make any decisions. A healthy lifestyle, including diet, weight management, exercise, stress management, and limited alcohol intake can only help you as you navigate this path. Talk to your physician, and maybe even your therapist if you have one, about your situation. There are numerous options available to enhance fertility and support your journey toward having children. Your physician can refer you to a fertility specialist if needed, or other healthcare providers for information about IVF, adoption, and surrogacy. The most important things to keep in mind are that you are not alone on this journey.

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    Laurel Ash, ND
    Laurel Ash, ND: Medical Content Reviewer
    Laurel Ash, ND is a board-certified Naturopathic Physician. She holds additional credentials with a master’s in integrative mental health. Dr. Ash graduated from the National University of Natural Medicine in 2019. Dr. Ash practices in Oregon and Washington where ND’s scope of practice includes primary care. Using the best tools of allopathic/conventional medicine with the holistic tenants of naturopathic medicine has created a powerful force of healing for the patients in her practice. Dr. Ash focuses on combining integrative/functional health modalities with evidence-based medicine. She has experience as a medical reviewer in the holistic medicine field and partners with companies and practitioners to produce science-backed content for readers and consumers interested in holistic medicine. She is passionate about blending the strengths of allopathic and integrative medicine to transform the healthcare industry, empowering people with an understanding of all their options on their wellness journey.
    Jordana Tobelem, RD
    Freelance Contributor
    Jordana Tobelem is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys helping others become the best versions of themselves through proper nutrition education. Jordana is passionate about promoting lifestyle changes through nutrition, physical activity, and behavior to create a superior quality of life. She uses her experience in the clinical field of dietetics to provide consulting services to an array of healthcare brands and companies. Jordana loves finding the most current research in nutrition to create meaningful content to share with her clients. Jordana has been a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics since 2018 and also holds certifications in both Personal Training and Health Coaching.