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You are What You Eat, Gentlemen!

You are What You Eat, Gentlemen!

18:01 15th October 2021 | Male Fertility

Male Fertility Male Infertility

Male infertility is any health issue in a man that lowers the chances of his female partner getting pregnant. This can be caused by various factors such as sperm disorders, varicoceles, retrograde ejaculation, hormonal imbalances, certain medications, genetic disorders and so on. This can be a very challenging situation for the couple who is trying to achieve conception.

Male infertility due to sperm disorders is quite prevalent and is influenced by two major factors amongst others – Diet and Lifestyle. One of the easiest ways to reduce sperm quality is through diet. Consistently feeding on the wrong diet can impact negatively on semen parameters.

Men of reproductive age presenting with sperm disorders are usually counselled to stay on antioxidants. Is this counsel overrated? What exactly are antioxidants and why are they so important? Furthermore, asides from the pills, is there a way we can have a complete change in dietary patterns in other to achieve the same goals? All of these and much more will be addressed as we proceed.


Antioxidants are molecules that fight free radicals in the body. Free radicals on the other hand are constantly being produced in the body as by-products of metabolism or from exposure to toxins e.g. tobacco, smoke etc. They are not entirely bad, as the body’s immune system also uses them to fight infections. However, when their levels surpass the levels of antioxidants, damages begin to occur. These highly unstable compounds cause DNA fragmentation in sperm cells. They impair sperm motility and result in increased morphological defects. The import of having sperms with fragmented DNA is that it promotes embryo arrest after fertilization, especially in in-vitro fertilization, hence lowering the chances of conception. Excess levels of free radicals in the body do not only affect sperm cells, they damage other cells also in split seconds, resulting in mutations that can lead to cancer.

It is evident that antioxidants, which help to balance out this ratio are greatly needed in the body. Consistently feeding on the right foods can help to perpetually keep the body in a healthy state and more importantly improve disorders.


There are various sources of antioxidants but below are some dietary sources that can be incorporated into every day diet.

  • Carrots: Carrots are vegetables rich in carotenes but carotenes are not limited to just carrots. These nutrients can also be found in sweet potatoes. Carotenes have been proven to improve sperm motility. Carrots or carrot juice should become part of the daily diet for individuals having sperm disorders.
  • Oranges: Oranges are very good sources of vitamin C which is also an antioxidant. Vitamin C found in oranges has been shown to improve not only sperm motility and count but also sperm morphology.
  • Tomatoes: Tomatoes largely contain the antioxidant known as Lycopene and lycopene has been shown to improve sperm quality. From a recent study carried out, 60 men who took the equivalent of two tablespoons of concentrated tomato puree a day for 12 weeks were found to have better quality sperm in terms of the proportion of healthy-shaped sperm and motility (Williams et al, 2020). Other sources of lycopene include; watermelon, pink guava etc.
  • Broccoli: These vegetables are rich in glutathione and have been shown to increase sperm concentration and motility. They can either be eaten raw or cooked. However, intense cooking is not advised in other to preserve the nutrients. Other foods high in glutathione include; spinach, potatoes, avocados etc.
  • Almonds: Almonds are very rich in vitamins C and E. Vitamin C has proven to be very instrumental in the regeneration of vitamin E. Studies have shown that vitamin E helps to improve sperm motility which is essential for both natural conception and IVF treatment cycles.  An investigation was carried out on 119 healthy males between the ages of 18 and 35. The participants were split into two groups, one of which was instructed to eat the daily mix of 60 grams of nuts in addition to their regular diet. The second group was asked to avoid eating nuts altogether. After 14 weeks, the researchers collected sperm and blood samples from both groups. The men who had been eating nuts were found to have a 16 % higher sperm count (Chrissy Sexton, 2019). 
  • Co-enzyme Q10: is a naturally occurring nutrient in the body. It is usually concentrated in the mitochondria of the mid-piece of the sperm cells. The mitochondria are the powerhouse of every cell and so an abundance of the coenzyme Q10 helps in generating energy for movement in sperm cells as well as regulating all other energy-dependent processes. Studies have shown a significant increase in sperm motility with a rise in coenzyme Q10 levels. Dietary sources of this nutrient include; oily fish such as Tuna and Salmon; organ meats such as liver and kidney; whole grains like brown rice, bulgur or oatmeal.
  • L-carnitine: This is also a naturally occurring nutrient that is highly concentrated in the epididymis. The epididymis is the part of the testes that stores sperms and helps in bringing them to maturity. L-carnitine not only plays a crucial role in sperm maturation but has also been shown to improve sperm concentration among men with oligoasthenozoospermia (low sperm count and motility).
  • Ginger: is one of the most used spices in the world and has been found to be very helpful in increasing sperm count, sperm motility and sperm volume. These men who took part in this study had an increase in serum LH (Luteinizing hormone), FSH (Follicle-stimulating hormone) and testosterone. Ginger is very effective at decreasing sperm DNA fragmentation. As this fragmentation decreases, testosterone levels increase. It is very easy to incorporate ginger into the diet. It can either be used as a powder or diced fresh into meals.


  • Junk foods: Overconsumption of junk may lead to an accumulation of fatty acids and fat-soluble toxicants within the testicular environment leading to impaired spermatogenesis and low testosterone synthesis. Research conducted by U.S researchers showed that young men who ate junk food (pizza, burgers, fries and sugary foods) on the regular had a significantly less (25 per cent lower) sperm count than those who ate healthy food (veggies, fish and fruits).
  • Soy products: Soy products contain phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are estrogen-like compounds. Estrogen is popularly known as the female hormone, though present in males as well but predominant in females. From this study, there was a significant effect on sperm count, with men in the highest intake category having an average of 42 million sperm/ml less than those who did not eat soy (Chavarro et al, 2006).
  • Okra: Okra is a very nutritious vegetable that has been proven to be very medicinal. However, the seeds of okra contain a toxic compound called gossypol. Daily consumption of gossypol can stimulate infertility by irreversibly blocking spermatogenesis (Coutinho, 2012).

In conclusion, the need to have a total turnaround in dietary patterns cannot be overemphasized as little consistent efforts go a long way in improving sperm disorders.

Image credit: Google

By Covenant Popoola, Trainee Embryologist

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Call: 01 631 0092 / Whatsapp: +234 (0)810 460 7791.
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