Male Fertility Supplements: An Evidence Based Review and Recommendations
That means if you’re part of the 1 in 8 couples that struggle to conceive, one of the smartest things to do is have a semen analysis and start taking male fertility supplements if any sperm abnormalities are discovered.
In this article, we will cover what exactly male fertility supplements are, what men should take them, when to take them, provide an evidence-based review on the top vitamins and nutrients for male fertility, and discuss products CNY recommends our patients and others take.
What are Male Fertility Supplements?
Male fertility supplements are simply dietary supplements that contain a combination of vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids and their derivatives, whole foods, antioxidants, biomolecules, and other nutrients that have been shown to help male fertility.
Many micronutrients found in male fertility supplements have been shown to:
- increase sperm count
- improve sperm motility
- decrease DNA fragmentation
- improve sperm morphology
- increase overall male fertility
Some of the top nutrients in male fertility supplements are:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin B12
- Alpha Lipoic Acid
- D-Aspartic Acid
- Fish oil
Because there are so many nutrients shown to improve male fertility, the main benefit of a product sold as a male fertility supplement is the convenience of buying only one or two products that contains everything you need as opposed to purchasing 10 or more separate supplements. Similarly, while most studies are conducted on a single nutrient, most of the top male fertility supplements combine many of the nutrients allowing for a compounding or synergistic effect of improving sperm health.
Of course, only the best male fertility supplements would have all of the above ingredients so it is important to look carefully at the ingredients in any male fertility supplement you are considering.
Who Should and Should Not Take Male Fertility Vitamins?
Most men could take male fertility supplements and benefit from them in some way. However, there are most certainly male fertility diagnoses that would 100% need intervention before the supplements could help improve their chances of getting pregnant.
Who Should Likely Take Male Fertility Supplements:
- Those with diagnosed oligozoospermia (low sperm count)
- Those with diagnosed asthenospermia or asthenozoospermia (poor sperm motility)
- Those with diagnosed Teratozoospermia (or poor sperm morphology)
- Those with diagnosed Oligoasthenoteratozoospermia (OTA). This is when all sperm parameters are abnormal.
- Those with other relatively minor diagnoses of male infertility.
- Those with unexplained infertility.
Who Should Likely Not Take Male Fertility Supplements (or should fix underlying issues first):
- Those with diagnosed Aspermia (no sperm) as this is likely that some larger genetic or congenital abnormality is at play that should be looked at and potentially corrected.
- Those with a vasectomy.
- Those with medical conditions that may make taking various dietary supplements dangerous.
As a further note, it is important to understand that there is still more to know about various micronutrients and their effect on male fertility. Furthermore, there are tremendous individual differences between people, and not all supplements (including vitamins sold for male fertility) are made equally.
For this reason, it is important to speak to a healthcare provider and only use a trusted brand of supplements for male fertility.
How Long Should a Man Take a Male Fertility Supplement?
Ideally, men should take a fertility supplement for a minimum of 90 days and continued until pregnancy is achieved.
Yes, you heard that right. Despite the potential for millions of sperm to finish their development and be ready for ejaculation each day, each of those sperm started their developmental journey approximately 70-90 days earlier.
Since critical aspects of sperm development happen throughout this entire 90 days it is important that the sperm develop in the optimal, nutrient-rich, environment for the full 90 days.
Vitamin C, heard of it? You were probably expecting us to start off our list of male fertility supplements with something hard to pronounce, but this famous vitamin with potent antioxidant activity is one of the best nutrients for male fertility.
There’s a great deal of evidence that links oxidative stress to reduced sperm motility, reduced sperm count, sperm DNA damage, increased risk of recurrent pregnancy loss, and overall male infertility and that infertile men are substantially (like 30-80%) more likely to have elevated markers for oxidative stress
Given all that, you may not be too surprised that Vitamin C supplementation has been shown to provide a huge increase in sperm count and motility.
Depending on the dose, sperm concentration jumped from 8.22 million/mL to 12.53 million/mL or 7.58 million/mL to 12.33 million/mL.
Similarly, motility jumped approximately 5% with a 200 mg dose and 10% with a 400 mg dose.
While not as notable as count or motility, morphology also saw a slight increase in this study.
Ashwagandha is a plant native to India whose roots have been used for thousands of years in traditional medicine. While Ashwagandha isn’t known to have a heavy dose of vitamins or minerals important for sperm health, it appears to have other biological compounds that can have quite a profound effect on sperm health making it one of the most important nutrients to look for in a male fertility supplement.
While it is not exactly known how Ashwagandha exerts its effects as a male fertility supplement, it could be linked to stress.
On the other hand, a handful of studies show ashwagandha is quite good and managing stress.
Carnitine is an amino acid derivative. It plays an important role in cellular energy production. It does so by helping transport nutrients into a cell’s mitochondria where they can be broken down and used as energy.
Interestingly, carnitine is also found in high concentrations in the male reproductive tract. This suggests that carnitine plays a critical role in energy production for sperm maturation and sperm motility.
One study of infertile men who took 1000mg of carnitine for 6 months experienced an improvement in total and progressive forward motility compared to placebo and baseline values. In this study, the percentage of motile sperm improved from 23.17% to 31.11% and the percentage of forward progressive sperm went from 14.83% to 25.00%.
All that makes carnitine one of the best male fertility supplements.
Vitamin D is another popular vitamin that gets a lot of attention and has even been glorified with a cool nickname, the sunshine vitamin, due to the skin’s ability to synthesize it when exposed to sunlight.
As you may have heard, vitamin D is important for many vital biological functions, and low levels are linked to many adverse health outcomes, including male infertility.
Many people know of the benefits of fish oil and omega 3s during pregnancy and for general health and wellness, but omega 3s also serve as one of the best fertility supplements for men.
Observational studies have noted that fertile men have higher levels of plasma and seminal levels of omega 3s compared to infertility men and that higher omega 3 levels are related to higher sperm count and better motility and morphology.
A clinical trial of over 200 men taking 1.84 g of Omega 3s found that after 32 weeks those in the treatment group saw a total sperm count increase from 38.7 million to 61.7 million and a concentration of 15.6 million/ml to 28.7 million/ml.
These results have been further supported by a large-scale meta-analysis that reviewed and compiled data from 16 studies looking at omega 3s, sperm health, and male infertility. Of the 16 studies done on fish oil and male fertility 14 of them found an increase in at least one key sperm health parameter.
Vitamin E is another common vitamin that routinely shows up in fertility supplements for men due to its important role as an antioxidant.
Fertility specialists advocate for vitamin E supplementation for men suffering from an unexplained reduction of semen quality.
Recent studies have shown that men with impaired sperm motility can increase their motility by taking a vitamin E supplement. Studies also suggest that vitamin E can also help improve sperm morphology and natural pregnancy rates.
Studies show that in the human body zinc concentrations are the highest seminal plasma and that the levels of zinc in sperm increase as a sperm develops. Researchers have also found that fertile men have significantly higher zinc levels than infertile men.
While folate is famous for its role in pregnancy and prenatal, it is also a common fertility vitamin for men. Folate is vitamin B9 and it is known to work with zinc in the production of sperm DNA. That said, clinical results from studies looking at folate supplementation and sperm quality are mixed.
So what can you make of this? Well, given that the 2019 study didn’t find any significant harm and other studies have found its benefit, we’d say the safe side still leans towards including this vitamin in your male fertility supplement regimen.
Studies suggest vitamin B12 is one nutrient that should be in any fertility supplement for men. It is involved in the metabolism of nearly all human cells as it is required for DNA synthesis along with fatty and amino acid metabolism.
Not surprisingly, some studies found vitamin 12 to be transferred from the blood to male reproductive organs, that infertile men have lower seminal vitamin B12 than fertile men, and that that seminal vitamin B12 concentrations tend to be associated with sperm count in men undergoing IVF or ICSI fertility treatment. “/]
Studies as early as 1984 looked at vitamin B12 supplementation for the treatment of male infertility. In this 1984 study, men were given 1500 mcg of vitamin B12 for 8 weeks. As a result, nearly 40% of the participants experienced an increase in sperm concentration, 50% demonstrated an increase in total sperm count, and 50% experienced an increase in sperm motility. “/] Another study conducted in 2003 found that men Vitamin B12 improved sperm count in men with normal and low sperm counts.
Shilajit is another traditional medicine used widely in India for thousands of years. It is a tar-like substance high in fulvic and humic acids and is reported to have several benefits as a male fertility supplement.
One study that gave men with diagnosed low sperm count and infertility shilajit for 90 days found a significant increase in a few key sperm measurements. Notably, the study found a 12-17% increase in sperm motility and a 61% increase in sperm count.
Shilajit may further its powers as one of the best fertility supplements for men due to its synergistic effects with CoQ10.
One study that looked at CoQ10 and Shilajit’s effect on energy production found that the group that supplemented with both the CoQ10 and Shilajit had the highest levels of ATP (compared to those who supplemented with just one or neither). In fact, the post-exercise CoQ10 + Shilajit group had similar ATP levels to the pre-exercise controls.
Cysteine is considered a semi-essential amino acid. That’s because your body can make it from other amino acids, but only if the intake of methionine and serine are high enough. N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is the form of cysteine used in dietary supplements. NAC is recognized and prized primarily for its role in antioxidant production. Due to the importance of antioxidants in male fertility, NAC has been studied for the potential treatment of male factor infertility.
A 2016 study examined men with varicocele. After varicocele surgery, the men were split into two groups. One received 600mg NAC for 90 days, the other received a placebo. Those in the NAC group saw improved sperm concentration, motility, and morphology compared to the placebo.
Inositol is widely famed as one of the best supplements for PCOS. That’s because inositol helps those with PCOS control their blood sugar and insulin levels which in turn help balance hormone levels and allow for normal spontaneous menstruation and ovulation.
While men can’t have PCOS, many of the same mechanisms that lead to PCOS (the leading cause of infertility worldwide) may play a role in male infertility as well.
Pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ) is relatively undiscovered in the world of male fertility supplements, but there is good reason for it to be considered as one. That’s because, much like CoQ10, one of the most famous male fertility supplements, PQQ functions to improve cellular energy production, which as we have already discussed, is critical for sperm development and motility.
While CoQ10 functions in the actual energy production pathway within mitochondria, PQQ has been shown to induce mitochondrial biogenesis; that means PQQ helps your cells make more mitochondria and thus more cellular energy.
While there are no studies looking specifically at PQQ and male fertility yet, many experts are already recommending PQQ due to the sound theoretical mechanism by which PQQ could help and its demonstrated safety as a dietary supplement in general.
Alpha Lipoic Acid
Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) is a compound that has recently been the focus of several studies as a fertility supplement for men.
That’s because ALA exhibits many of the characteristics and potential upside of some of the best male fertility supplements due to it acting a potent antioxidant, role in reducing inflammation, and the fact that it occurs naturally in all human cells and is made in the mitochondria where it functions in cellular energy generation.
As you likely recall, sperm development and motility are highly dependent upon cellular energy generation and antioxidant protection from reactive oxygen species.
A 2015 study looking at infertile men diagnosed with poor sperm morphology and motility discovered that after 12 weeks of ALA supplementation total sperm count, sperm concentration, and sperm motility in the intervention group were significantly improved compared to the control group and baseline values.
Another 2020 looking at men who either supplemented with ALA or took a placebo after microsurgical repair of a varicocele discovered that men who supplemented with ALA had higher total motility, progressive motility, and sperm counts compared to the placebo group.
These notions were further supported by a 2021 meta-analysis that looked at several studies of ALA supplementation for male fertility found that ALA can improve sperm health, fertilization, and pregnancy rates. Specifically, the review supported the idea that ALA improves fertilization, embryo development, sperm quality, and reproductive outcomes.
While there isn’t a tremendous amount of research on selenium and sperm health, there is enough base scientific understanding of selenium’s role in human physiology and some studies that justify its use in fertility supplements for men.
One study in specific looked at how selenium and vitamin E supplementation together worked to provide 50% of participants an improvement in sperm motility, morphology, or both. 10% of those also achieved a spontaneous pregnancy during the course of the study.
D-aspartic acid is an amino acid that is quite common in many animal-based meats. Based on one study of subfertile men with low sperm counts and or low motility, it may have a positive effect on sperm count, motility, and pregnancy rates. Males diagnosed only with low sperm motility experienced a 1.6x increase in sperm count
After 90 days of supplementation, those with both low sperm count and motility experienced a 2x increase in sperm count and a 1.5x increase in sperm count, and a 1.86x increase in sperm motility. An increased number of pregnancies was also reported in this study.
The Best Male Fertility Supplements
CNY Fertility considers The Male Preconception+ to be the best male fertility supplement on the market. It contains a high therapeutic level dose for just about every nutrient listed in this article. While it costs around $70/month, it is much more affordable than other significantly inferior male fertility supplements.
VivoMega Fish Oil
The one thing the Male Preconception+ doesn’t have is Fish Oils. For Omega 3s, it’s highly important to be getting a therapeutic dose of roughly 2,000 mg per day. Molecular Fertility’s VivoMega Fish Oil contains 2,340 mg of Omega 3s per serving. That’s about 6-10x as strong as most OTC fish oil supplements you can pick up at your local store.
Molecular Fertility’s VivoMega Fish Oil is also highly purified to eliminate any potential heavy metal exposure and far surpasses all of the most stringent international standards for fish oil purity and oxidation.
So while a single bottle is more expensive than you’re typically used to, remember you’re getting 6-10 times the amount of the highest quality omega 3s on the market.
Molecular Fertility’s standard Male Preconception is one top fertility supplements for men. It contains all of the foundational fertility vitamins for men along with other key minerals and nutrients like zinc, lycopene, and carnitine.
This provides those on a budget or those undergoing ICSI (where sperm motility may not be as important) a highly effective but much more affordable option.
The Final Word on Male Fertility Supplements
When sperm aren’t healthy, getting pregnant can be quite the challenge. Fortunately, there are lots of options to help those suffering from male factor infertility. Some will of course need serious medical intervention and require IUI, IVF, or other fertility treatment.
Regardless of what treatments are required (if any at all), studies show and CNY recommends that a vast majority of those suffering from infertility (even those with no diagnosable cause, ie unexplained infertility) can benefit greatly from taking a male fertility vitamin.
Who knows, as many of the studies in this article showed, you may even be the lucky one who experiences a natural pregnancy following some our recommended list of vitamins for male fertility.