Plain language summary
The impact of environmental, lifestyle and nutritional factors on unexplained male fertility has long been acknowledged. Yet, little research had been dedicated to the topic, despite declining semen quality having become a worldwide phenomena. Available studies have yielded limited, and at times conflicting, evidence. Hence this literature review sought to capture the current knowledge around unexplained male infertility and environmental, lifestyle, diet and nutrients factors. Summarized is the evidence from 69 studies, including population observations and clinical trials. The collected outcomes showed that a Western-type diet, rich in red and processed meats, refined grains, high-energy drinks and sweets, trans and saturated fats was associated with poor semen quality. Whereby higher intakes of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, omega-3 and poultry showed beneficial effects. However, as only selected groups were examined, more research is needed to project such findings onto the wider population. The reviewed evidence also included alcohol consumption, which showed high alcohol intake closely correlated to declining sperm concentrations. Whilst the verdict on caffeine consumption and the impact on sperm quality was inconclusive. In addition, several interventional studies evaluated the effect of dietary supplementation on various parameters of semen, where coenzyme Q10, L-carnitine, vitamin E, antioxidants, combined nutrient formulations and herbal blends all had positive outcomes. The review on zinc and folic acid supplementation yielded mixed results. This brief recap of the current evidence on environmental, lifestyle and nutritional influences on male infertility summarises the dietary foundations for the support of unexplained male infertility.
BACKGROUND AND AIMS Male unexplained infertility has long been suspected to result from environmental, lifestyle and nutritional factors. However, the literature on the subject is still scarce, and clinical studies providing robust evidence are even scarcer. In addition, some similar studies come to different conclusions. Dietary pattern can influence spermatogenesis by its content of fatty acids and antioxidants. Yet, in an age of industrialized mass food production, human bodies become more exposed to the ingestion of xenobiotics, as well as chemicals used for production, preservation, transportation and taste enhancement of foods. We attempted in this paper to collect the available evidence to date on the effect of nutritional components on male fertility. MATERIAL AND METHODS A systematic search of the relevant literature published in PubMed, ScienceDirect and Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials Database was conducted. Literature was evaluated according to the Newcastle-Ottawa- Scale. RESULTS Epidemiological observations are concordant in demonstrating an association of low-quality sperm parameters with higher intake of red meat, processed and organ meat and fullfat dairy. On the contrary, better semen parameters were observed in subjects consuming a healthy diet, rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grains and fish. Evidences of the negative impact on male fertility of by-products of water disinfection, accumulation in food chain of persistent organochlorine pollutants, pesticides, phthalates from food and water containers and hormones used in breeding cattle have been reported. Clinical trials of the effects of micronutrients on semen parameters and outcomes of assisted fertilization are encouraging, although optimal modality of treatment should be established. CONCLUSIONS Although quality of evidence should be ameliorated, it emerges that environmental factors can influence male fertility. Some nutrients may enhance fertility whereas others will worsen it. With diagnostic analysis on a molecular or even sub-molecular level, new interactions with micronutrients or molecular components of our daily ingested foods and leisure drugs may lead to a better understanding of so far suspected but as yet unexplained effects on male spermatogenesis and fertility.