Over the counter fertility supplements sold to men may not help them become fathers, a study suggests.
The supplements are packed with ingredients important for healthy sperm, according to their manufacturers.
But a snapshot study of men taking the supplements found no difference in the ‘swimming ability’ of their sperm or in their overall sperm count in comparison with men who didn’t take any supplements at all.
Researchers asked 54 men attending fertility appointments if they were taking vitamins or supplements. Of men asked, 22 were – with almost 40 per cent of those taking supplements specifically to benefit their fertility.
Dr Sarah Martins da Silva, senior author of the study by the University of Dundee, which was presented at the British Fertility Society’s annual conference, said: ‘Men need to consider whether they want to spend a lot of money on supplements which might not actually work.
‘There is really not good enough evidence that they increase the chance of pregnancy and birth.
‘We advise men to take 1,000mg of vitamin C daily, as it is many times cheaper and both a safe and effective antioxidant.’ The most popular supplements taken by men in the study were multivitamins, followed by zinc and vitamin C.
Most fertility supplements contain vitamins and micronutrients thought to be important for healthy sperm, both in protecting its swimming ability and preventing DNA damage caused by the ‘free radicals’ in the body often linked to modern life and an unhealthy diet.
To check this, sperm samples from all 54 men surveyed were tested. Samples from the men taking all types of supplements and vitamins showed no difference in ‘swimming ability’ and sperm count to the men who were not taking any supplements at all.
Dr Martins da Silva said: ‘Often these supplements simply don’t have a large enough amount of the vitamins or minerals suggested in studies to improve sperm. There is also a concern taking them for too long may lead to health problems we don’t yet know about.’
The researchers stress that their study is small.
Professor Tim Child, medical director at Oxford Fertility clinic – who was not involved in the research – said: ‘This study is important as it confirms how many men are taking supplements in the hope of improving their fertility, and so highlights how vital it is to understand the impact supplements actually make on fertility. Whilst the results failed to show that supplements improve sperm parameters, the study was far too small to be conclusive.’
© Daily Mail