Can Diet Increase Sperm Motility?

If you're dealing with male infertility, assessing the contents of your dinner plate could possibly improve your semen analysis, including sperm motility. While diet isn't the entire story when it comes to fertility, what you eat could have an impact on sperm. Talk to your doctor before making major dietary changes to improve fertility.

A young man is talking to a doctor. Credit: XiXinXing/iStock/Getty Images

The Importance of Motility

Although sperm get a good push in the right direction during ejaculation, motility still counts when it comes to reaching the egg. At least 40 percent or more sperm should be motile, or moving, according to the University of Washington. At least 32 percent should be progressively motile, rather than just moving in circles or twitching. More than 12 percent should have rapid linear motility, meaning that they move in a relatively straight direction. Sperm that move forward rapidly have the best chance of fertilizing an egg, the University of Washington reports.

Consuming a "Prudent Diet"

Eating larger amounts of foods that make up what researchers called a "Prudent diet" improved sperm motility in a study reported in the October 2012 issue of "Human Reproduction." The Prudent diet consists of fish, chicken, fruit, vegetables, legumes and whole grains. College students who consumed more of these nutrients had better sperm motility than those who consumed less of them. However, the study looked at just a single semen sample. In men who consumed a typical "Western diet," there was no correlation between dietary intake and sperm quality.

Antioxidant Effect

Antioxidants can protect cells from damage caused by molecules called free radicals. Several studies have shown that a diet high in antioxidants improves sperm motility. A December 2013 article published in "Fertility and Sterility" found that men with the highest dietary intake of beta carotene, found in large amounts in yellow and orange vegetables, had the largest number of progressive motile sperm. A diet higher in lutein, found in lettuce and spinach, also improved sperm motility. A study published in the March 2010 issue of "Fertility and Sterility" found that a diet high in antioxidants vitamin C and lycopene, found in tomatoes, and lower in protein and fats correlated with better sperm quality.

Selenium

Foods can have a negative as well as a positive impact on sperm quality. Selenium, a mineral found in large amounts in seafood and organ meats, could have a negative effect on sperm motility, a study published in the September-October 2001 issue of "Journal of Andrology" reported. Men who were fed a diet high in selenium over a 120-day period had an 18 percent drop in motile sperm at the end of the study. The recommended daily amount of selenium is 55 micrograms per day. Brazil nuts are especially high in selenium, containing 544 micrograms in a 1-ounce serving. Muscle meats, grains and dairy are also high in selenium.

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