I study sperm. Here are five ways for men to boost their fertility
- Maryam Rahbar, an andrologist, revealed her top tips for boosting sperm counts
- She said they could also ward off obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure
- READ MORE: One in six adults of reproductive age are infertily, says WHO
A fertility expert has revealed the top five ways that men can boost their sperm count — especially if they are trying to conceive.
Maryam Rahbar, a male reproductive researcher at Oxford University told DailyMail.com recommended eating tomatoes and regular masturbation.
Sperm counts have been in freefall globally for decades, with the World Health Organization warning this week that one in six adults of childbearing age are now infertile.
A lower sperm count gives a man a lower chance of fertilizing an egg each time they ejaculate — dropping their chances of having a child.
Ms Rahbar gave DailyMail.com five tips to boos sperm count, including eating tomatoes, cutting back on drinking, taking supplements, exercising and regularly masturbating
Back in 1973 the average sperm count was about 104million per milliliter. But, by 2019 this had fallen to 49million — halving in under 50 years.
More and more men are now falling below the fertility threshold of 15million sperm per milliliter.
Eating tomatoes can help to boost men’s sperm count, she suggested
Experts say this is because of poor diets, a lack of physical activity in many people’s lives and other behaviors such as smoking or high sugar diets.
Ms Rahbar says the effects of these can be reversed with a few lifestyle choices, though.
The same chemical that gives tomatoes their bright red coloring also help boost their sperm count.
Tomatoes are red thanks to the compound lycopene, which studies have shown can also raise sperm quality via reducing oxidative damage to the swimmers.
A previous small study involving 60 men aged 19 to 30, published in 2020, found that taking lycopene every day for 12 weeks boosted sperm counts by 40 percent.
A study in 2019 saw 44 men with low sperm counts given 25mg supplements of lycopene for 12 weeks while a control group got a placebo.
By the end of the study, those who got lycopene had significantly more sperm than those who did not get the supplement.
These tomatoes could be consumed in any form, whether fresh, juiced, or in a larger meal such as baked beans or in cooking sauces, Ms Rahbar said.
Masturbating once every two to five days can also help
Masturbate every two to five days
Clearing out the pipes yourself every few days could keep things running smoothly.
Ms Rahbar explained that when sperm are not ejaculated, they start to die while waiting inside the testes.
The body does re-absorb the dead sperm, but in the process it also releases molecules called reactive oxygen species — which are toxic to nearby sperm.
These can also kills these sperm or damage their ability to swim, reducing a man’s sperm count and sperm quality.
Ms Rahbar said: ‘You should not masturbate less than once every five days.
‘Less than this can be problematic because as sperm sit in the testes they start to die. This leads to the formation of reactive oxygen species which are detrimental to the way that the sperm that remain move.’
It takes about 74 days for the body to manufacture each sperm cell, Ms Rahbar warned, meaning damaged sperm can take time to clear out of the testes.
Masturbation is known to have a number of essential health benefits, including boosting mood, relieving stress and — in men — reducing the risk of prostate cancer.
Experts have previously told DailyMail.com that masturbating 21 times a month — or about five times a week — is the ‘sweet spot’ for preventing prostate cancer.
She said an hour of exercise three times a week could help maintain a healthy sperm count
Run and lift weights three times a week — but be careful with rowing and cycling
Around one in four Americans barely get any physical activity, and they are damaging their fertility as a result.
Ms Rahbar recommends men to run or go to the gym at least three times per week to boost sperm levels.
‘Regular exercise can help to boost sperm count,’ she said. ‘It also reduces the risk of other conditions like obesity, which we know push sperm counts downward.’
One in six adults of reproductive age are infertile, WHO says
The UN agency said the sheer scale of the crisis underscored the need to widen access to costly fertility treatments.
It is not clear why exercise helps to boost sperm counts, but scientists suggest this may be because it raises blood flow to the testes — helping to provide essential nutrients and oxygen for sperm production.
Other explanations include that it can boost testosterone levels, an important hormone for sperm, and reduce oxidative stress in the body, which can damage the swimmers.
It also staves off conditions such as obesity and diabetes, which are known to harm fertility.
Asked about what type of exercise men should aim for, she said that running, jogging and lifting weights were best.
But she said it was important to do these while not wearing tight clothes because this would allow air to circulate around the testes, keeping them at the ideal temperature of 93F (34C), below the standard body temperature of 98F (37C).
She raised concerns over exercises such as rowing and cycling, however, saying these can prompt heat stress in the testes because of the exercise movements.
The tight lycra involved in the exercises also does not help, she warned.
Heat stress may reduce sperm production by prompting damage to DNA in developing sperm or interfering with hormones regulating production.
Nonetheless, she added that this should only be a concern for men who do the exercises regularly — or professional athletes. It should not be an issue for those taking part recreationally.
She said: ‘For professional athletes, this is a problem. But for those who do it recreationally, it shouldn’t be.’
She said to avoid having more than two alcoholic beverages a week
Stick to one to two beers a week
Men worried about fertility may want to cut out from happy hour a little early.
Ms Rahbar said that men looking to boost their sperm count shoudl not have more than two drinks a week.
She based her recommendation on that from Canadian health authorities.
Several experts have already blasted its guidelines for ignoring the benefits of drinking including socializing, combatting loneliness and celebrating events such as birthdays or winning awards.
Canadian health chiefs are also out of step with the rest of the world.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for comparison, says up to two beers per day is safe for a man, and in the UK the NHS says men can have six beers a week spread over three days without issue.
Ms Rahbar told DailyMail.com: ‘There is no safe level of alcohol consumption.
‘Ethanol has been linked to cellular damage, DNA damage and a hormone imbalance as well as inhibiting the production of sperm.
‘I recommend maybe having a drink here or a drink there, but not heavy drinking. By that, I mean one or two drinks a week, in line with recommendations from the Canadian Government.’
Scientists have long found alcoholism and overuse of the substance to be linked to infertility.
Alcohol may damage sperm by triggering oxidative stress and interfering with the body’s ability to repair DNA damage.
Supplements such as zinc and folic acid can also help boost sperm counts, she said
Ms Rahbar, who is also co-founder of at-home sperm tester Jack Fertility, said men could also try supplements for boosting sperm counts.
Among them was zinc, which is found in the seminal fluid and needed for the production and maintenance of sperm.
Zinc is important for building sperm membranes.
Most men will be able to get enough zinc from eating a balanced diet, with top sources including oysters, red meat and poultry.
But for those who are concerned they are not getting enough, they can start to take supplements which may involve popping a pill once or twice a day.
Persian researchers described the mineral as an ‘essential element for male fertility’ in a 2018 report.
Another supplement that she recommended was folic acid, also known as vitamin B.
It is used to help with the production of sperm cells and to regulate how DNA is added to them.
Previous studies have shown that a low level of vitamin B9 in men lead to a consequent decrease in sperm count.
It is also possible to get enough of this vitamin by eating a balanced diet, with top vitamin B sources including leafy greens, salmon and eggs. But the vitamin is also available as a supplement.
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