Vitamin C linked to virility, better overall health in men
Male fertility rates in the United States have been steadily decreasing over the past decade. Over 70 million couples worldwide complain of infertility with low sperm count accounting for more than 50% of the causes of infertility.
Obesity, smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes and chronic stress all contribute to this decline. Medical research has shown that, under these stressful conditions, sperm quality and quantity may be improved by regular consumption of vitamin C.
Reproduction and the resultant children are a time and energy consuming endeavor. In nature, the healthiest animals are the ones who are most able to reproduce. The same holds true for humans. Medical conditions can significantly impact health, reducing sperm quality and quantity. Chronic lifestyle stress results in an increase in anti-stress hormones (think cortisol) that reduce sperm quality and quantity as well, leading to impotence. In technologically advanced countries, chronic stress and chronic illnesses are potentiating low sperm counts and a decrease in overall fertility. All of these stress conditions reduce tissue levels of antioxidants and the testes are very susceptible to tissue damage resulting from reduce levels of antioxidants, thus resulting in a reduced quantity and quality of sperm.
Vitamin C (ascorbic) acid is a powerful antioxidant that has many metabolic functions. It was first reported to be a cure for scurvy, a disease resulting from poor wound healing. Although it is well documented that vitamin C is essential for tissue repair, it is also involved in the production of neurotransmitters, by some white blood cells in the killing of bacteria and viruses, and is needed by multiple enzymatic pathways.
Humans do not make their own vitamin C, even though we have the genes to do so. We must get our vitamin C through food or supplementation. Low levels of vitamin C combined with chronic stress and illness are the prefect recipe for low sperm counts and infertility.
Medical research has consistently demonstrated that increasing vitamin C levels can improve the quality and quantity of sperm both in humans and animals. A recent review of the medical research on vitamin C and sperm quality and quantity summarized medical research from 2004-2015. Overall the results indicated that vitamin C leads to better sperm quality/quantity, DNA protection and increased pregnancies (about a 20% increase). In some studies vitamin C administered by injection was better than taking it orally. Admittedly, most of the studies have been done in mice and rats but those human studies are equally positive.
Most Americans do not eat enough vitamin C-rich fruits and vegetables as part of their daily diet so vitamin C insufficiency may be quite common. Taking a daily vitamin C supplement may be prudent not just for infertility but for overall health. Some believe that intravenous vitamin C may be more effective for sperm quality and infertility than taking a supplement.
There are very few contraindications to taking vitamin C and this simple vitamin could be part of the answer to increasing male infertility.
• Dr. Patrick Massey is president of ALT-MED Medical and Physical Therapy, 1544 Nerge Road, Elk Grove Village.