Semen quality in relation to antioxidant intake in a healthy male population

In this cross-sectional study of healthy young men, dietary intakes of the carotenoids b-carotene and lutein were associated with higher sperm motility, while lycopene intake was associated with better morphology.

Piotr Zareba, M.D., M.P.H., Daniela S. Colaci, M.D., M.Sc., Myriam Afeiche, Ph.D., M.P.H., Audrey J. Gaskins, B.S.E., Niels Jørgensen, M.D., Ph.D., Jamie Mendiola, Ph.D., M.P.H., Shanna H. Swan, Ph.D., Jorge E. Chavarro, M.D., Sc.D.

Volume 100, Issue 6, Pages 1572-1579, December 2013


To assess the relationship between dietary antioxidant intake and semen quality in young healthy males.

Cross-sectional study.

University and college campuses in the Rochester, New York, area.

One hundred eighty-nine university-aged men.


Main Outcome Measure(s):
Semen volume, total sperm count, concentration, motility, total motile count, and morphology.

Progressive motility was 6.5 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.6, 12.3) percentage units higher among men in the highest quartile of β-carotene intake compared with men in the lowest quartile. Similar results were observed for lutein intake. Lycopene intake was positively related to sperm morphology. The adjusted percentages (95% CI) of morphologically normal sperm in increasing quartiles of lycopene intake were 8.0 (6.7, 9.3), 7.7 (6.4, 9.0), 9.2 (7.9, 10.5), and 9.7 (8.4, 11.0). There was a nonlinear relationship between vitamin C intake and sperm concentration, with men in the second quartile of intake having, on average, the highest sperm concentrations and men in the top quartile of intake having the lowest concentrations.

In a population of healthy young men, carotenoid intake was associated with higher sperm motility and, in the case of lycopene, better sperm morphology. Our data suggest that dietary carotenoids may have a positive impact on semen quality.

  • Alexander Nwaibe

    Pls. let the common man understand the meaning of the terms – motility and morphology before he gets lost out. or lose interest.

    • Jason Kovac

      Motility is how the sperm moves. Morphology is the shape of the sperm. If you want the basics: moving sperm is good and funny shaped sperm is bad. But nothing is ever that simple !

  • Nicolas Garrido

    Congratulations for your very nice work.
    I am particularly grateful for such meticulous and rigurous statistical approach, which is not very frequent in this kind of studies.
    Given the concerns usually raised when questionnaires about life habits are used in order to be realted with a health outcome, the numerical adjustments performed make results more believable.
    I truly think this is a valuable piece of evidence, in order to counsel adequate life habits for pregnancy planners.
    I agree with Dr Ko about the known and existing variability among two-three samples close in time from the same male. Maybe this can be taken as a reccomendation for the next study: limiting the questionnaires to the habits taken within three months, to see the effects on a spermatogenic cycle, and also (and more precisely), within the last two weeks before the samples are provided.
    Also, it could be interesting if there is the possibility of measuring these compounds, or their derivatives, in seminal plasma
    Just guessing
    Again, thank you for your work
    All the best

  • This dietary study suggests the positive effects of carotenoid intake on sperm motility and morphology. Two of the biggest weaknesses of this study are basing the results on a single semen analysis in time, and improper collection (abstinence range from 8 hours – 25 days). Standard collection convention is between 2-7 days. This study would have been more robust with at least 2 semen analyses for each participant to account for collection variability. Nevertheless, I counsel subfertile men with abnormal semen analyses to increase their antioxidant food containing intake in hopes of improving their parameters.

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