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Nutrition and Fertility

 

 

NUTRITION AND MALE FERTILITY

 

Just over the last 50 years, male sperm counts have declined rapidly. Because the decline in sperm production is relatively recent, one must suspect a combination of environmental, lifestyle, and dietary factors might be interfering with spermatogenesis.[1]

Eating a nutrient dense diet can help to not only prevent damage to sperm, but can also help to promote sperm health.

Nutritional Therapies:

Carnitine

Carnitine contributes directly to sperm motility and may be involved in the successful maturation of sperm.

Red meat is one of the highest sources of L-carnitine, at about 56-162 mg per serving. L-carnitine can also be found in foods like pork, seafood, and chicken, but at much lower levels, between 3 and 7 mg per serving. Dairy, like ice cream, milk and cheese, has between 3 and 8 mg per serving.

Zinc

Zinc is a trace mineral essential for normal functioning of the male reproductive system. Numerous biochemical mechanisms are zinc dependent, including more than 200 enzymes in the body. Zinc deficiency is associated with decreased testosterone levels and sperm count. An adequate amount of zinc ensures proper sperm motility and production. The best sources of zinc are seafood, meat, seeds, and cooked dried beans, peas and lentils.

Vitamin C

Studies have shown the concentration of ascorbic acid in seminal plasma directly reflects dietary intake, and lower levels of vitamin C may lead to infertility and increased damage to the sperm’s genetic material.

Citrus fruits (orange, grapefruit, lime, and lemon) are excellent sources of vitamin C. Many non-citrus fruits are highly rated sources, as well. Papaya, strawberries, pineapple, kiwifruit, cantaloupe, and raspberries are also excellent vitamin C sources.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a well-documented antioxidant and has been shown to inhibit free radical-induced damage to sensitive cell membranes. Studies have shown that the combination of Vitamin E and Selenium significantly increased sperm motility and the overall percentage of normal spermatozoa.

Vitamin E is found mainly in foods that contain fat like margarine, vegetable oil, wheat germ, nuts, nut butters, and seeds.

Coenzyme Q-10

In sperm cells, coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is concentrated in the mitochondrial mid-piece, where it is involved in energy production. It also functions as an antioxidant, preventing lipid peroxidation of sperm membranes.

CoQ10 is naturally found in high levels in organ meats such as liver, kidney, and heart, as well as in beef, sardines, and mackerel. Vegetable sources of CoQ10 include spinach, broccoli, and cauliflower.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is important in cellular replication, especially for the synthesis of RNA and DNA, and deficiency states have been associated with decreased sperm count and motility.

Vitamin B12 is naturally found in animal products, including fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and milk products.

[1]S, Sinclair. "Male Infertility: Nutritional and Environmental Considerations. Altern Med Rev 2000;5(1):28-38

 

NUTRITION AND PREGNANCY

 

Maintaining a healthy balanced diet is important for maintaining optimal health throughout life. For women of childbearing age, good nutrition is important for preparing the body for the demands of pregnancy.

It is a proven fact that the nutritional status of women when becoming pregnant and during pregnancy can have significant influence on both fetal, infant and maternal health outcomes. Micronutrient deficiencies such as calcium, iron, vitamin A and iodine can lead to poor maternal health outcomes and pregnancy complications which put the mother and baby at risk. Poor maternal weight gain in pregnancy due to an inadequate diet, increases the risk of premature delivery, low birthweight and birth defects.[1] ("WHO | Nutrition Counselling During Pregnancy")

It is important to know which foods and what quantities are essential for achieving optimal dietary intake. Emerging evidence now suggests that use of micronutrient- containing prenatal vitamins before and during pregnancy is associated with reductions in the risk of congenital defects, preterm delivery, low infant birthweight, and preeclampsia.[2](Scholl, 2008)

Prenatal vitamins contain many vitamins and minerals. Their folic acid, iron, iodine, and calcium are especially important.

Folic Acid

Folic acid helps prevent neural tube birth defects, which affect the brain and spinal cord. Neural tube defects develop in the first 28 days after conception, before many women know they are pregnant. Because about half of all pregnancies are unplanned, it's recommended that any woman who could get pregnant take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid daily, starting before conception and continuing for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Foods containing folic acid include green leafy vegetables, nuts, beans, citrus fruits, and many fortified foods. [3]

Vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiency is common among pregnant women in most populations, and has been found to be associated with an increased risk of pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes mellitus, preterm birth, and other tissue-specific conditions. Vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy improves maternal vitamin D status and reduces the risk of pre-eclampsia, low birthweight and preterm birth. 

 Iodine

Iodine is critical for a woman’s healthy thyroid function during pregnancy. A deficiency in iodine can cause stunted physical growth, severe mental disability, and deafness. Not enough iodine can lead to miscarriage and stillbirth. Seafood, milk and yogurt—as well as eggs rank as very good sources of iodine.

 Iron

Iron helps blood -- in both the mother and baby -- carry oxygen. High iron foods include liver, sunflower seeds, nuts, beef, lamb, beans, whole grains, dark leafy greens (spinach), dark chocolate, and tofu. Iron supplementation is recommended throughout pregnancy.[4] ("WHO | Daily Iron and Folic Acid Supplementation During Pregnancy")

 

[1] "WHO | Nutrition Counselling During Pregnancy". Who.int. N.p., 2016.

[2] Scholl TO.  “Maternal nutrition before and during pregnancy” Nestle Nutrition Workshop Series, Pediatric Program. 2008;61:79-89

[3] Gaither, Kecia. "Pregnancy and Prenatal Vitamins". WebMD. N.p., 2016

[4] "WHO | Daily Iron And Folic Acid Supplementation During Pregnancy". Who.int. N.p., 2016