According to a new US study, the sperm of men who have an adequate intake of beta-carotene, lycopene and lutein shows improved motility and fewer defects.
The observational study examined the daily intake of antioxidant micronutrients – such as vitamins A, C, E and carotenoids – in 189 healthy men with an average age of 20 (1). Daily intakes were estimated by using dietary questionnaires, and the number, motility and shape of the men’s sperm were analyzed. The study results showed that participants with the highest intakes of carotenoids (mainly in fruit and vegetables) pro- duced the best quality sperm. In men with the highest consumption of beta-carotene and lutein, the motility of their sperm was higher (up to 6.5% and 4.4%, respectively) than those of the participants with the lowest intakes. The more lycopene consumed, the greater was the percentage of normally formed sperm in the semen. A correlation between the characteristics of sperm and the consumption of vitamins A and E could not be found. With regard to vitamin C, an average daily dose of 148 milligrams showed to be optimal for both the quantity and motility of sperm.
The researchers commented that this observation does not demonstrate a causal link between the intake of possible sperm-protective antioxidant micronutrients and the quality of sperm. It remains unclear as to why the different types of antioxidants resulted in such different effects. The researchers believe it is possible that not all, but some, of the micronutrients could increase the level of antioxidants in different parts of the geni- tal system. In the epididymis, where sperm matures, the protective effect would improve the sperms mobili- ty. Furthermore, the testes, where sperm is produced, would thereby increase the quantity of sperm. If a causal relationship is confirmed in further studies, it would be conceivable to use certain antioxidants for the treatment of men with reduced fertility.