Tag Archives: male fertility

Green tea and male fertility

A new study has found that an extract from green tea affects sperm quality (1). The research, published last month in the journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, found that low doses of a chemical compound (epigallocatechin gallate or EGCG) which is present in green tea can improve sperm quality.

Sub-fertility among men is common, and numbers of men affected are increasing. Recent data suggests that 1 in 5 men between the ages of 18-25 now have fertility problems linked to semen quality (2). In around 50% of cases, the cause of male subfertility is unknown, and in such cases nutritional and lifestyle measures are often recommended as a means of boosting sperm quality.

In this recent study, researchers exposed human sperm samples to a range of concentrations of EGCG, a chemical compound present in green tea. Results showed that, at low concentrations, EGCG was associated with increased sperm motility, viability, and phosphorylation of proteins controlling cell survival.

The aim of the study was to find out whether the extract from green tea increased the sperm’s ability to fertilise an egg by improving a process called ‘capacitation’. Capacitation is simply a series of biological processes needed to ‘activate’ the sperm so that it can fertilise the waiting egg.

At low and medium doses, the results were positive. The researchers reported that “depending on the used concentration, ECGC/estrogen receptors are able to improve fertilisation potential of the human male gamete, evidencing the specific effects on motility, viability and energy expenditure in human sperm”. In short, the sperm treated with ECGG helped sperm to swim well. It also increased the number of living sperm, and supported essential signalling inside the sperm.

coenzymeQ10
Will CoenzymeQ10 help you?

At very high concentrations, ECGC had the opposite effect. Such results highlight the need for further research in this area.

There is in fact a growing amount of research surrounding the potential benefits of nutrients in boosting male fertility, with previous studies assessing the effectiveness of nutrients such as l-carnitine and coenzyme Q10.

Previous studies support the value of antioxidants in boosting male fertility (3). The high antioxidant value of green tea is well known, and this characteristic may therefore play a role in its fertility-boosting potential. Sperm damage is thought to occur when highly reactive particles called free radicals circulate in the body, causing damage to sperm cells. This damage may reduce fertility by lowering sperm counts or reducing the sperm’s ability to fertilise an egg. For this reason, antioxidants, which fight those free radicals, are thought to be helpful.

Further controlled trials are certainly needed to provide solid guidelines on the benefits of nutrients in treating male fertility. My feeling is that further research will serve to confirm the crucial role for diet and lifestyle in this area.  The European Science Foundation recently reported new figures showing a rapid increase in male reproductive disorders. This indicates that these fertility issues are caused by environmental factors or changes in our lifestyle rather than genetic factors, meaning that they may be entirely preventable with the a natural approach focussing on nutrition and lifestyle.

Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC.

References

1.De Amicis et al (2012) Epigallocatechin gallate affects survival and metabolism of human sperm Mol Nutr Food Res Nov;56(11):1655-64.

2. Male Reproductive Health – Its impacts in relation to general wellbeing and low European fertility rates. ESF Science Policy Briefing 40, October 2010.

3. Showell et al (2011) Antioxidants for male subfertility. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. Jan 19;(1):CD007411.

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CoQ10 aids male fertility

A new study involving 287 infertile men suggests that the nutrient Coenzyme Q10 improves both sperm quality and pregnancy rate.

The study, published in the International Urology and Nephrology Journal, assessed men with idiopathic oligoasthenoteratozoospermia (OAT), meaning that the men had unexplained reduced sperm count and reduced sperm quality.

CoEnzyme Q10
CoEnzyme Q10 may be useful in supporting male infertility and sperm motility

The trial measured the effects on pregnancy rate of supplementation with 300mg of CoQ10 twice a day for 12-months. Over the 12-month period, the overall pregnancy rate was 34.1%. In contrast, the pregnancy rate in non-supplemented infertile men during the same time is around 6.4%.

Sperm samples were also collected before and after supplementation. The results showed that supplementation with CoQ10 improved mean sperm concentration by 113.7%. It also improved motility (forward movement of the sperm) by 104.8% and raised the number of normal forms by 78.9%.

There are a number of reasons why CoQ10 may boost male fertility. In sperm cells, CoQ10 is concentrated in the midpiece of each sperm, acting as an energy promoting agent. The energy for movement and all other energy-dependent processes in the sperm cell depend on this crucial nutrient. CoQ10 is also an antioxidant, preventing lipid per oxidation thereby reducing damage to sperm membranes.

In cases where couples are having difficulty conceiving, it is very common for medical treatment to be focussed on the female partner only. This treatment pathway fails to address the health of the male partner which could be addressed with nutritional changes.  It does appear that couples are short-changed when they are referred for invasive medical treatments, when nutritional changes could in fact be a far less invasive and stress-free alternative. A recent review of male subfertility concluded that “The concept of unilateral care of the female partner, which has gained momentum in the reproductive health community, especially with the advent of in vitro fertilization and intracytoplasmic sperm injection, is counterproductive, and should be discouraged.”

This trial was open-label, meaning some caution is needed in interpreting the results. However, the study will hopefully pave the way for future research in this area.

While couples may not wish to rely exclusively on nutritional supplements and dietary changes to address subfertility, this approach could be used alongside medical treatment to improve chances of success. “Medical treatment with nutraceuticals helps improve sperm parameters, and even if the response is not adequate, increases the response to assisted reproductive technology.” (2)

Coenzyme Q10 is present in beef, pork, oily fish and nuts. However, to reach therapeutic levels of this nutrient, supplementation would be necessary. The recommended dose range of CoQ10 for male subfertility is 60 mg to 200 mg daily.

Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC

References

1. The effect of coenzyme Q10 supplementation on partner pregnancy rate in infertile men with idiopathic oligoasthenoteratozoospermia: an open-label prospective study. MR Safarinejad. Int Urol Nephrol. Vol 44, no3 (2012) 689-700.

2. S. Kalra, B. Kalra, N. Agrawal: Nutraceutical Management Of Male Subfertility: An Update  . The Internet Journal of Family Practice. 2010 Volume 8 Number 2. DOI: 10.5580/1c4a

3. Image Courtesy of graur codrin

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