Basking in the sun could improve sperm count, claims a new study. Exposure to sunlight boosts the vitamin D level in the body. Researchers at the University of Copenhagen have found that the “sunshine” vitamin plays an important role in development of sperms.
Causes of male infertility
Low sperm count and poor sperm quality are the major causes of infertility in men. More than 90 per cent men with fertility problems suffer from either low sperm count or poor sperm quality, or both. In about 30 to 40 percent cases, the causes of abnormalities in the sperms are unclear. In others unhealthy lifestyle, poor diet, chronic illnesses, structural abnormalities or genetic defect adversely affects the quality of sperms.
To ease conception, more than 48 million sperms should be present in a milliliter of semen. Fertility problems develop when the sperm count drops below 13.5 million per milliliter of semen. A man is said to suffer from low sperm count when the number of sperms in a milliliter of semen is less than 10 million.
Sperms that move sluggishly and/or could not move in a straight line might not reach the female egg. Poor sperm motility is a common cause of infertility in men.
The shape of the sperm plays an important role in fertilization. A healthy sperm features an oval head and a long tail. An abnormally shaped sperm could not fertilize an egg. Men with more than 40 percent abnormally shaped sperms might experience fertility problems. Presence of fragmented DNA chains in the sperms inhibits fertilization.
Several factors are responsible for low sperm count. Excess stress might reduce sperm count by obstructing activities of hormones associated with sperm production. Smoking could damage the sperms. It adversely affects the motility of the sperms, reduces sperm count and cause cellular damage, which leads to genetic abnormalities in offspring. In addition, smoking might reduce sex drive. Substance abuse significantly damages the quality of the sperms.
Some studies suggest that obesity might contribute to fertility problems in men.
Poor diet deprives your body of essential nutrients, which might lead to infertility. Deficiency of nutrients such as vitamins C and E, folate, zinc and selenium might reduce lifespan of sperms and sperm counts.
According to reproduction health experts, overheating the testes is a common cause of infertility in men. Saunas, wearing tight briefs and trousers and even placing laptops on the lap for several hours might raise the temperature in the scrotum.
In a small number of cases, genetic defects and inherited medical conditions are linked to male infertility. Elevated levels of free radicals in the body might damage the sperms. Studies have shown that about a quarter of infertile men have excess free radicals or oxidants in the semen.
Vitamin D improves sperm count
While analyzing the sperm quality in 340 men chosen at random, the University of Copenhagen study team found that vitamin D level in men is directly related to the number of healthy sperms. Compared with men with normal vitamin D levels, men suffering from vitamin D deficiency are more likely to have smaller number of healthy sperms.
According to health experts, the optimum level of vitamin D in the blood should be at least 75nmol per liter. In the study, the vitamin D level in men with poor sperm count was less than 50nmol per liter. The researchers reported their findings in the journal Human Reproduction. The findings confirm earlier studies that link sperm production to vitamin D level in the blood. Moreover, this also explains the reason why the rate of conception is higher among couples on a vacation, when they have no qualms about bathing in the sun.
How vitamin D boosts sperm production
Vitamin D regulates the calcium and phosphorous level in the body. Researchers at the University of Copenhagen found that vitamin D boosts the intracellular calcium concentration in the sperms, which helps to improve sperm motility. It also stimulates acrosome reaction, a complex chemical process that helps the sperm to penetrate the female egg during fertilization.
In an earlier study, researchers in Sydney found that DNA fragmentation in the sperm, a major cause of infertility in men, could be prevented by increasing the vitamin D level in the blood.
Vitamin D sources
The ultra violet B rays of the sun penetrates the skin and triggers synthesis of vitamin D. On a cloudy day, the cloud cover almost halves the ultra violet energy of the sun. Staying away from the sunlight is a major cause of vitamin D deficiency. Ultra violet rays could not penetrate the glass panes of the windows. Excess use of sunscreen creams and lotions that shield the skin from the ultraviolet rays of the sun impairs the natural vitamin D synthesis process. Despite the benefits of sunlight in stimulating vitamin D production, one should not overlook the health hazards associated with prolonged exposure to sunlight. Ultraviolet radiation is linked to skin cancer. According to health experts, you can meet your vitamin D requirement without increasing the risk of skin cancer by spending about 20 to 30 minutes outdoors, without sunscreen, in the early morning or late afternoon.
However, insufficient exposure to sunlight could be compensated by including vitamin D rich food in the daily diet. To sustain the vitamin D reserve in your body, you need around 600 International Units (IU) of vitamin D daily. After 70, you need 800 International Units of the sunshine vitamin daily. This fat-soluble vitamin is present in few foods. Fatty fish are the richest sources of natural vitamin D. It is present in egg, dairy products and beef liver. Orange juice, milk, margarine and cereals fortified with vitamin D could be included in your daily diet.
People suffering from lactose intolerance or milk allergy might not get enough vitamin D from their diet. Vegan and strict vegetarian diet are often deficient in vitamin D. people suffering from Cronhn’s disease, liver disorders or cystic fibrosis that impair fat absorption in the gut might suffer from vitamin D deficiency. If you suspect that your daily diet is deficient in vitamin D, you might even meet your daily vitamin D requirement from dietary supplements.