Can fertility dietary supplements help?

Oct 5, 2018
Volume: 
21
Issue: 
7

The United States Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women reports CDC findings that about 10% of American women of childbearing age have difficulty becoming or staying pregnant. CDC defines infertility as the condition of not being able to achieve pregnancy within one year of trying, or within six months of trying for women older than 35. Nationwide, infertility affects about 6.1 million women between the ages of 15 and 44.

CDC also notes that about one-third of infertility cases are caused by medical problems in women, and another one-third are caused by medical problems in men. The final third are a combination of female and male reproductive issues and unknown causes.

The market for dietary supplements that support reproductive health in women—and also in men—is established and substantial. Additionally, CDC lists poor nutrition as one of a number of factors contributing to fertility problems, making the argument for supplementation that much stronger.

Nutrition and Fertility: Recent Findings

In April of this year, a review of the current body of scientific literature studying the relationship between diet and human fertility was published in American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology by two Harvard professors, Audrey Gaskins, ScD, and Jorge Chavarro.1 The authors identified some clear patterns:

  • Intake of supplemental folic acid, particularly at doses higher than those recommended for preventing neural-tube defects in babies, has been “consistently related to lower frequency of infertility, lower risk of pregnancy loss, and greater success in infertility treatment.”
  • Antioxidant supplementation may be beneficial for promoting fertility in the male partner of a woman undergoing infertility treatment.
  • Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids appear to improve female fertility.
  • Adherence to a healthy diet “favoring seafood, poultry, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables is related to better fertility in women and better semen quality in men.”

Additionally this year, in July, British Journal of Nutrition published a study by Keewan Kim et al. whose findings suggest that low manganese, selenium, and sodium levels increased the risk of sporadic anovulation (no egg release, and therefore, no conception) in women.2 Additionally, low levels of magnesium were found to be associated with lower testosterone levels, while very low levels of potassium were associated with higher testosterone levels. (For the study, 259 women aged 18 to 44 were recruited; the women kept food diaries and had blood drawn and tested by the researchers throughout their menstrual cycles.) Taken all together, the findings of this particular study appear to recommend that women seeking to conceive adhere to the recommended daily allowances of these elements to support regular ovulation.

Successful, competitive supplement brands are staying alert to these recent scientific discoveries, formulating products that provide ample amounts of folic acid/folate in combination with other ingredients, such as minerals, antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and herbs.

A Pre-Prenatal Vitamin

One particularly well-known and successful fertility supplement line is Fairhaven Health’s FertilAid, which includes a FertilAid for Women product and a FertilAid for Men. The women’s version is essentially a prenatal supplement containing 600 mcg of folic acid (150% RDA), plus the B vitamins, vitamin D3, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin E, minerals, and a blend of herbs intended to both support fertility and maintain a healthy pregnancy. The herbal blend features selections to “stimulate and balance hormones that control ovulation,” according to the company, including chaste tree berry extract and red clover extract. (For more on herbs and botanicals for fertility, see the sidebar on the next page.)

The men’s product contains large concentrations of antioxidants and minerals, and its formulation is supported by clinical trial data presented at the American Society of Andrology’s Annual Proceedings in 2009.3 The randomized, double-blind study was undertaken through 2006 over three months, to determine the effects of FertilAid on men with “abnormal sperm parameters” as defined by the World Health Organization. The researchers noted statistically significant improvements in sperm motility (an indicator of male fertility) for subjects using the dietary supplement, and also suggested that the use of FertilAid for Men may improve sperm count.

In line with findings that omega-3 fatty acid intake is associated with better fertility, Fairhaven’s FH Pro Omega-3 contains “clinical-grade EPA and DHA,” according to company literature. “In women, EPA and DHA are believed to help regulate hormones, reduce inflammation, promote cervical mucus production, and reduce blood clotting, all of which is beneficial for fertility,” the literature reads. “EPA and DHA are also believed to be important for helping to prevent miscarriages and preterm labor and for brain and eye development in the fetus. In men, low intake of omega-3 fats has been associated with poor sperm production and quality.”

Fairhaven also offers a product aimed singularly at improving cervical-mucus quality (another indicator of fertility) and a newer FertileDetox product containing herbs, amino acids, botanicals, and probiotics for the purpose of “promoting the efficient elimination of environmental toxins from the body” by “supporting the body’s own detoxification and cleansing systems”: the liver and the intestines.

Another brand adhering closely to the latest science is Daily Wellness Co., seller of the supplements FertilityBlend for Women and FertilityBlend for Men. The women’s formula contains a blend of folic acid, letter vitamins, magnesium, zinc, selenium, and iron, as well as the amino acid L-arginine plus green tea extract and chaste berry extract. The formula “significantly improves ovulation health and hormonal balance,” says Daily Wellness Co. president Denny Kwock. He cites a double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in 2006 in Clinical and Experimental Obstetrics & Gynecology that he says showed the FertilityBlend women’s supplement improved the success rate of couples trying to conceive by three times over placebo.4

The men’s FertilityBlend formula contains vitamins C, E, B6, and B12, plus folate, zinc, and selenium. The supplement also includes the amino acid L-carnitine, plus green tea extract and dong quai extract, for improved sperm quality.

References: 
  1. Gaskins AJ et al. “Diet and fertility: a review.” American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, vol. 218, no. 4 (April 2018): 379-389
  2. Keewan K et al. “Dietary minerals, reproductive hormone levels and sporadic anovulation: associations in healthy women with regular menstrual cycles.” British Journal of Nutrition, vol. 120, no. 1 (July 2018): 81-89
  3. Clifton GD et al. “Prospective study of FertilAid vitamin in men with low sperm quality.” Poster 25. Presented at American Society of Andrology Annual Proceedings, April 2009.
  4. Ried K et al. “Efficacy of Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine in the management of female infertility: a systematic review.” Complementary Therapies in Medicine, vol. 19, no. 6 (December 2011): 319-331
  5. Westphal LM et al. “A clinically proven natural fertility remedy.” Clinical and Experimental Obstetrics & Gynecology, vol. 33, no. 4 (2006): 205-208