Male fertility is highly dependent on semen and sperm quality. And quality of a man’s semen has been shown to be dependent on several factors. Let us look at these factors.
The quality of semen deteriorates with age as sperms accumulate genetic errors over time. Dr. Cral Herbert explains how these errors occur:
“Since sperm production is so high, a man has to keep copying his DNA over and over again to make sperm. All this DNA copying leads to small mistakes, called mutations. If you remember that at its most basic level, DNA is a series of letters that make up recipes called genes. If the recipe is copied millions of times a day, mistakes inevitably happen.”
Excess weight is found to be associated with abnormal semen quality and male factor infertility by South African researchers. Obesity affects directly or indirectly male infertility by “inducing sleep apnea, alterations in hormonal profiles (reduced inhibin B and androgen levels accompanied by elevated estrogen levels) and increased scrotal temperatures, ultimately manifesting as impaired semen parameters (decreased total sperm count, concentration and motility; increased DNA fragmentation index).” Whether this negative effect on fertility is reversible by weight loss is not known.
Diabetes is another condition linked to infertility. British researchers found that men with diabetes have more DNA damage in their sperms than non-diabetics.
Their results showed that:
- Semen volume was lower in diabetic men compared with non-diabetic men (2.6 and 3.3 ml respectively).
- But sperm concentration was not significantly different between the two groups.
- Total sperm output, form, structure and “motility” (ability to move) were also largely the same in the diabetic and non-diabetic men.
- The nuclear DNA in diabetic men’s sperm cells was more fragmented than that of the non-diabetic men (52 per cent versus 32 per cent).
- There were more deletions in the mitochondrial DNA of diabetic men’s sperm cells than those of the non-diabetic men.
- The mitochondrial DNA deletions in the diabetic men’s sperm cells ranged from 3 to 6 and averaged 4, while for the non-diabetic men it ranged from 1 to 4 and averaged 3.
Lifestyle factors, too, may play a role in semen quality, and lifestyle changes may help improve semen quality and thus fertility, according to a study by Italian researchers. The study looked at 52 male patients suffering a condition called high-grade varicocele without hypertrophy. Varicocele is characterized by swelling or lump that surrounds the testicle, usually the left. It is also associated with abnormal semen characteristics and decreased fertility. Semen quality as measured by spermiograms showed that smokers and alcohol drinkers have lower sperm counts and lower sperm motility and vitality compared to non-smokers and non-drinkers.
However, changes in lifestyle significantly improved sperm qualityby as much as 76%.
The lifestyle changes implemented included:
- Quitting smoking or at least reduction of the number of cigarettes smoked per day
- Reduction in alcohol consumption
- Reduction in alcohol intake
- Improved nutrition by increases daily consumption of fruits and vegetables