Vitamins and Sperm

June 1st, 2010 § 14 comments § permalink

Adam recently asked about a product which claimed to improve semen.  There are many of those out there, and many are vitamins and combinations of vitamins.  These “nutraceuticals” can be found in drug stores, in groceries, on the internet and elsewhere.

A big problem with claims about how a nutraceutical may improve sperm and semen is that most aren’t based on studies that have a placebo, a pill that looks just like the vitamin but doesn’t have the ingredients being studied.  Why is that a problem?  Because nature virtually guarantees that if you start out with a bunch of men that happen to have lower than average sperm or whatever, and you measure their sperm (or whatever) before and after treatment, they will always improve.  It’s an effect called “regression to the mean.”  It’s like if you took twenty people with colds and gave them all a pill and waited two weeks, most would get better.  Was it due to the pill or to just nature doing its thing?  You don’t know.  The way to figure it out would be to give half of them the pill, and half of them a pill that looked like that one but had no active ingredients, and compare how the two groups did over that two weeks.  That’s called a “controlled study,” and it’s critical in figuring out if a drug or vitamin works.

Last year, two controlled studies were published looking at a vitamin involved in the energy machine inside cells called “Coenzyme Q10” and sperm.  In one, men with poorly wiggling sperm who took 200 mg daily improved while taking the vitamin compared to men taking placebo.  In another, men taking 300 mg daily improved in both sperm number and motility compared to men taking placebo.

They’re small studies, and bigger studies are always better.  But Coenzyme Q10 might help sperm numbers and especially motility. (I have absolutely no relationship, financial or otherwise, to companies that make it.)