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Can selenium help with men’s fertility?
Infertility is a major clinical concern, affecting 15% of all reproductive age couples. It is a well-known fact that selenium helps out men with normal spermatogenesis; the production of sperm,* but how does it do this?
Male factors, including decreased semen quality, are responsible for 25% of infertility cases. Currently, the cause of suboptimal semen quality is poorly understood, and many physiological, environmental, and genetic factors, including oxidative stress, have been implicated. Selenium is important for reproductive functions such as testosterone metabolism and is a constituent of sperm capsule selenoprotein.
The administration of selenium to sub-fertile patients can induce a statistically significant rise in sperm motility. This is because selenoproteins participate in sperm structure, integrity and maintenance. Sperm capsular selenoprotein has an important structural role in spermatozoa in the form of glutathione peroxidase (GSH-Px). Increased reactive oxygen species (ROS) decreases fertility because ROS attacks the membrane of the spermatozoa, decreasing their viability. Increasing selenium encourages antioxidant GSH-Px activity, thus decreasing ROS and leading to increased male fertility.
Another study included 690 infertile men with abnormal sperm motility and morphology. They received supplemental daily selenium (200 µg) in combination with vitamin E (400 units) for at least 100 days. There was 52.6% (362 cases) total improvement in sperm motility, morphology, or both, and 10.8% (75 cases) spontaneous pregnancy in comparison with no treatment. No response to treatment occurred in 253 cases (36.6%) after 14 weeks of combination therapy. Therefore combination therapy with oral Se and vitamin E was effective for treatment of abnormal sperm motility and morphology and induction of spontaneous pregnancy.
Treatment of deficiency is easy, so if a couple is having fertility issues, perhaps it is a good idea for the male to get their selenium level checked.
* EU REGISTERS ON NUTRITION AND HEALTH CLAIMS