More often than not, we look at the woman’s health side when discussing fertility issues. But men need to be part of the conversation too. One major topic of discussion: low vitamin D levels.
Chances are you have heard about the benefits of adequate vitamin D – from heart health to diabetes to decreased belly fat. But does vitamin D levels affect fertility, especially for men? The Unit of Reproductive Endocrinology at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece, recently reviewed 30 years of research involving vitamin D and human reproduction. They found evidence for a “favorable effect of vitamin D supplementation on semen quality, testosterone concentrations, and fertility outcomes.” The bad news: some studies have reported that most people, especially men, run low in vitamin D. The leading factors include aging, limited sun exposure, and/or certain cholesterol drugs.
If a man suspects low vitamin D is the source of his fertility problems, he should first talk to his doctor who can run a blood test to measure serum 25(OH) D concentration, which can determine if he is D deficient. A serum level of 20 ng/mL is considered “good” although some studies have shown higher benefits in the 25-35 ng/mL range.
The Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) of vitamin D for most people is 600IU. How much should you take to reach serum 25 (OH) D levels? It is quite easy. For every 1ng/mL that you need to bump up, you require an additional 100IU of vitamin D per day.
Supplements are an easy way to get more D. If your doctor advises to take one, look for Vitamin D-3, which has shown to raise the levels more effectively than D-2. Equally important is to take it with your biggest meal as this increases its absorption by 50%, according to a study from the Cleveland Clinic Foundation Bone Clinic.
Besides supplements, you can increase your vitamin D levels with foods, such as egg yolk, salmon, fortified milk, yogurt, and cheese. Vitamin D is called the “sunshine vitamin” because your body can get it from the sun. And while some sun exposure (about 10 minutes) can complement your vitamin D diet and supplements, relying too much on sunlight may increase your risk of skin cancer. It’s often safer to stick with supplements and food.
Be aware that too much vitamin D can increase one’s risk of heart and liver issues. However, if the “boys” need some help, a little extra D may do the trick.