Male infertility is the cause of at least 40% of infertility problems. That means millions of men find themselves with difficulty having children. Many of those men turn to male fertility supplements to help conceive children—but how do these supplements work? (Of course, we are talking about male fertility supplements that do work—there are many with dubious claims of benefits that don’t.)
The biggest cause of male infertility is damage to the sperm, so male fertility supplements focus on making sure sperm is healthy and able to fertilize the egg. This happens three ways:
- Protecting from mitochondrial DNA damage – Your testes produce sperm very rapidly, generating millions of cells that all need to carry your genetic code to fertilize an egg. Unfortunately, damage to the DNA of sperm cells can cause sperm to be improperly formed, meaning they may not be able to swim up to the egg, or may not be able to fertilize it when they do. For some men, this DNA damage happens at the mitochondrial level because of genetic factors. These genetic factors include an inherited trait that causes DNA-repairing enzymes to fail to do their job, allowing mismatched or incomplete DNA to keep replicating and ultimately leading to more damaged sperm. By protecting against this DNA damage, male fertility supplements can encourage healthy sperm.
- The antioxidant defense – The testes are located in an area of the body that has very low oxygen levels. And yet the testes are responsible for producing not only sperm, but also your body’s natural steroids. The result is that the tissue inside the testes is an oxygen-starved environment. Scientists believe this is a protective measure, so that the dangers of oxidative stress (oxygen poisoning) and free radicals (particles that damage cells) do not affect sperm production and harm fertility. But what happens if this natural defense fails and the sperm are damaged anyway? In many men with infertility, antioxidants provide an effective way to inhibit sperm damage and restore fertility. This is one of the most important functions of male fertility supplements.
- Gentler aging – No matter how healthy you are, as you age, your fertility declines. Even men with no genetic history of damaged sperm will have a higher rate of damage as they age. Sperm production overall also begins to decline, reducing the chances of impregnating a woman. Thus, many male fertility supplements focus on addressing the side-effects of aging in the testes, helping tissues stay healthier and production stay higher for longer.
Of course, these are just some of the ways that supplements can address male infertility. In choosing male fertility supplements, keep these in mind—and always consult your doctor!