Several studies show that the antioxidant astaxanthin, pronounced “asta-zan-thin”, may be supportive of sperm health and in particular sperm motility. Sperm motility defines a sperm’s strength and ability to properly move and swim forward.
What is Astaxanthin?
Dubbed the “king of all carotenoids” and believed to the most potent antioxidant nature has to offer us, astaxanthin is one of more than 700 naturally occurring carotenoids – the compounds that give fruits and vegetables, and even some marine and aquatic life, their vibrant array of colors.
Astaxanthin is a fat-soluble, biologically active compound produced by the microalgae Haematococcus pluvialis. This microalgae and the sea creatures that eat it (salmon, shellfish and krill) are the only natural sources of astaxanthin.
Astaxanthin is most widely studied and talked about for enhancing endurance, sports recovery, and to support heart, brain and eye health. Recently, clinical trials have been conducted to learn the relationship between astaxanthin and sperm health.
Astaxanthin for Sperm Health
Around 40% of infertile men have high levels of free radicals in their semen. This may be due to exposure to environmental toxins, poor diet and unhealthy lifestyle habits such as smoking cigarettes. Sperm also produce high quantities of free radicals as they work hard to traverse the many challenges along their journey to the awaiting egg. These challenges can be anything from simply having to move through the uterus itself, cervical mucus and the thick gelatinous outer layer that surrounds an egg called the cumulus oophorus (it takes a lot of energy to break through this layer of cells).
In one double-blind randomized controlled trial to evaluate astaxanthin’s use in protecting sperm function and male fertility, thirty men from infertile couples (where the female partner had no fertility issues) received either astaxanthin (16 mg/day) or a placebo for three months. The men provided semen for IUI during the three months and the occurrence of pregnancy was recorded. By the end of three months, sperm motility was significantly increased and semen free radical production was decreased in the astaxanthin group, versus the placebo group. Most noted in this study was the pregnancy rate, which was 54.5 percent for the astaxanthin group compared to 10.5 percent for the placebo group.
Because of the powerful antioxidant actions astaxanthin provides, potential fertility benefits may be to…
- Enhance reproductive health
- Stabilize blood sugar
- Boost immune system function
- Reduce inflammation of all causes; it is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent
- Improve male fertility by increasing sperm strength, quality, motility and sperm count
- Improve endurance
- Reduce oxidative damage to DNA
- Reduce pain – astaxanthin blocks COX 2 enzymes, which may be potentially supportive for reproductive organ pain
General suggested use is naturally sourced astaxanthin, or as a food-based nutritional supplement at 40 mg/day or less – most clinical trials have used a dose in the 6-12 mg range – taken with a high quality fat with or immediately prior to meals.
Synthetic astaxanthin is made in a laboratory and sold in supplement form, but should be avoided because it is made from petrochemicals that cause free-radical damage within the body.
Astaxanthin may be worth researching and speaking to your healthcare provider about if you suspect male factor infertility, compromised immune system function and/or inflammation to be contributors to your infertility. There are no reported safety issues with consuming natural astaxanthin, but if you are taking any medications speak with your healthcare provider before adding it to your program.