How nutrients affect sperm health depends on how you supplement your diet.
The health and viability of sperm depend on the amount of antioxidants protecting them from the damaging effects of oxidation products. The testicles produce sperm over a 2 to 3 month period and an increase in NO nitric oxide and therefore blood flow were shown to increase sperm quality as well as circulating testosterone levels . Testosterone is important for sperm production by the testicles.
Omega-3 fatty acids: These healthy essential fats increase NO production by your blood vessels, which will help to maximize blood flow to the testicles. They also help to prevent heart attacks and strokes. In a recent study, sperm omega-3 concentration was strongly correlated with sperm number (Chavarro, 2009). We recommend 500 to 1200 mg. per day of EPA/DHA. Caution: Do not increase omega-3’s without a large increase of antioxidants. These polyunsaturated fats, while being essential to sperm membrane function, are particularly vulnerable to the effects of oxidative compounds such as free oxygen radicals (Walthes, 2007). Minimizing your intake of transfats may also improve sperm quality (Chavarro, 2009).
Folic acid: This B vitamin is a specific co-factor in the production of NO in the body. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) is 400 micrograms. We do not recommend taking more than 400 micrograms long-term, and if you are getting extra folic acid in wheat bread and cereal or if you eat a lot of veggies, we recommend cutting the tablets in two and taking only 200 micrograms per day. There has been some recent concern that excessive folic acid could increase colon cancer. Prenatal vitamins do often contain more than 400 micrograms. Folic acid for the female helps to prevent a small group of birth defects.
Vitamin C, 500 mg, and Vitamin E, 200 IU: These two antioxidants specifically act together to stimulate NO production. Vitamin C can worsen heartburn, so don’t take it before bedtime. We specify 200 IU of vitamin E because of studies suggesting that 400 IU may not be as good for overall health. If you do not take any pycnogenol, we would suggest 1,000 mg of vitamin C and 1,000 IU (1,000 mg) of vitamin E (Greco, 2005). CAUTION vitamin E supplements should not be used by people who are taking aspirin. Vitamin E adds to the ant-clotting effect of aspirin. Use the higher dose of pycnogenol instead of the vitamin E if you take aspirin
L-citrulline: L-citrulline and L-arginine are the raw materials for NO production, but L-arginine is largely broken down before being absorbed by the body. L-citrulline is an important intracellular source of L-arginine, and what is inside the cell is what counts for NO production. In a well-controlled study of 3 gm of L-arginine plus pycnogenol, a significant increase was noted in all semen parameters. Two grams of L-citrulline will increase L-arginine levels more than 3 grams of L-arginine. Natural sources of L-citrulline are melons, particularly watermelon, but you could not eat enough to influence your levels.
Pycnogenol: We recommend increasing your intake of natural antioxidants such as pomegranate, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, chocolate, green tea and lots of fruits and vegetables. Also, pycnogenol is a potent antioxidant that helps decrease the breakdown of NO and has been shown to be quite effective for stimulating NO. It is a proanthocyanidin similar to the principle antioxidants in blueberries and also found in cocoa, green tea and red wine. The dose that was shown to increase sperm quality is 80 mg. You could take 60-120 mg of pycnogenol per day depending on your intake of natural antioxidants, vitamin C, and vitamin E.
Green tea: Green tea contains lots of antioxidants. If you are bothered by the caffeine, you can take decaf green tea. The decaffeination process does decrease the content of antioxidants, but their absorption can be markedly increased without increasing the absorption of caffeine by simply adding 50 mg of vitamin C to each cup. A convenient product is Ester-C (below). Add one-half teaspoonful to each cup. There are many good-tasting specialty green teas available. Good Earth has a decaf lemongrass green tea we highly recommend. Green tea extract is another way to boost your level of antioxidants.
Liquid Vitamin C: Here’s the link for the liquid vitamin C. If you are not drinking three cups of regular green tea per day, you can add a half teaspoonful to each cup. The absorption of antioxidants may increase three-fold according to one study. Green tea is also important in the prevention of prostate cancer.
CO Enzyme Q-10: is critical to energy production in the cell (see life choices and fertility). In men given 200 mg of Q-10 twice daily, the percentage of sperm with forward movement and the average sperm velocity were significantly increased. The Q-10 was given for 6 months, but an effect could occur in a very short time because Q-10 acts on the biochemical pathway producing ATP. Because Q-10 is itself an antioxidant, it is difficult to separate a direct effect on the generation of energy by the mitochondria from a non-specific effect due to its antioxidant properties. Supplements of Q-10 have been used in a number of other studies with no side effects or adverse events being reported. A man with low sperm motility could choose to take Q-10 if the other measures above do not normalize motility, or they could choose to add it to their regimen from the beginning.
Chocolate: Chocolate has potent effects on NO production, but it usually contains a lot of sugar, which reduces NO. You can get all of the advantages and avoid the sugar with a sugar free chocolate. You will get to enjoy it as much as regular chocolate and it’s guilt-free! Don’t overdo it. This is our only recommendation that could make you gain weight. An ounce or so will give you lots of antioxidant and is enough to look forward to each day. Have some for a mid-afternoon break along with a cup of green tea.