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It Starts With The Sperm: Protecting Sperm DNA

Meet the Expert: Dr. Darren Bryk, AKA the sperm whisperer, is an andrology/male infertility fellow at the University of Virginia. He medically reviewed each post in our three-part "It Starts With the Sperm" mini-series.

We’re back with our third and final post in our “It Starts with the Sperm” mini series on the key roles sperm plays in conception, pregnancy and baby, and this time, we’re talking DNA. When it comes to male fertility, it’s not enough to have a high sperm count and top marks for motility and morphology. Without low levels of DNA fragmentation, a man’s fertility—along with his ability to successfully conceive with a partner—is affected.

The DNA in a man’s sperm is vulnerable to serious damage from all sorts of things—age, illness, infection, and notably, his lifestyle habits. Turns out, poor choices can have bigger consequences than a beer belly and an increased risk of diabetes or heart disease. In fact, sperm DNA fragmentation is one of the leading causes of male fertility and is associated with a high risk of miscarriage. But there is some good news. Here’s what a guy can do to protect sperm DNA.

What is Sperm DNA Fragmentation?

We can all agree that sperm has a very big job, and the integrity of sperm DNA is absolutely critical for both a successful conception and a healthy pregnancy and baby. During the sperm maturation process, or spermatogenesis, specific behaviors can seriously affect that integrity, which creates DNA fragmentation. That term describes changes or physical breaks in one or both of the DNA strands of chromosomes in the sperm. This kind of damage affects sperm quality and has a direct impact not only on sperm’s ability to fertilize the egg but on the health of both the embryo and fetus.

That’s true if you’re going the IVF route, too. According to one study (1) of 360 couples, a higher sperm DNA fragmentation index was associated with lower fertilization rates, embryo quality and pregnancy rates. Couples who couldn’t achieve pregnancy had an average of 51.7% sperm with DNA fragmentation. Couples in the study who became pregnant averaged 39.5%.

What Causes Sperm Fragmentation?

Here’s a short, non-exhaustive list of possible causes of DNA fragmentation (check out our 11 tips for addressing them all to boost male fertility!):

  • Heat exposure
  • Smoking
  • Environmental toxins
  • Infections
  • Drug use
  • Advanced age (older than 40)
  • Chronic disease
  • Obesity
  • Oxidative stress

That last one is a major contributor, with research (2) demonstrating that oxidative stress is a big-time contributor to male infertility. Couples who do conceive in spite of DNA damage are at a much higher risk of giving birth to a baby with health and well-being issues (3). Not only is there a greater chance of birth defects, the chances of recurrent miscarriage also increase. 

Sperm DNA Fragmentation & Recurrent Miscarriage

A study (4) at the Imperial College London compared the sperm health of men whose partners had three or more consecutive miscarriages to the sperm health of men whose partners had experienced no miscarriages. It should come as no surprise that the first group of men had significantly more sperm DNA damage, to the tune of twice as much. Lead author Dr. Channa Jayasena specifically designed the study to look closely at the influence of sperm health, unlike prior research on recurrent miscarriage that focused on maternal health issues. “It has taken medicine a long time to realize sperm health has a role to play in miscarriage and that the cause doesn’t lie solely with women,” she explains. “Now we realize both partners contribute to recurrent miscarriage, we can hopefully get a clearer picture of the problem and start to look for ways of ensuring more pregnancies result in a healthy baby.”

What You Can Do to Minimize Sperm DNA Fragmentation

Decreasing exposure to oxidative stress can help decrease sperm DNA fragmentation. Here’s how that shakes out in the real world:

  • Take Beli Vitality for Men to fuel with the right nutrients 
  • Minimize or avoid alcohol and substance use
  • Find healthy outlets to manage stress
  • Commit to regular exercise
  • Eat a nutritious, varied diet high in fruits and vegetables

Clearly, it comes down to healthy lifestyle habits and one key focus: antioxidants. Antioxidant supplementation can actually counteract oxidative stress and improve spermatogenesis (5). Researchers specifically call out vitamin C, vitamin E, carnitines, folate, selenium and zinc for their antioxidant benefits. And in excellent news, bioavailable forms of these key nutrients can all be found in Beli Vitality for Men. They’re among 14 handpicked ingredients we chose to support and nourish sperm health across all parameters, and that includes protecting sperm DNA. 

For men, a high-quality prenatal vitamin like Beli is an easy addition to a healthy lifestyle with a big pay-off. A key driver of sperm deficiencies, including DNA fragmentation, is a nutrient shortage (6) during the sperm maturation process. Swapping the multivitamin for a supercharged men’s prenatal vitamin like Beli is a smart way to ensure you’re getting all the right nutrients in all the right amounts to support your fertility. 

The Bottom Line

Decades of research makes it clear that the right vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants can support and promote sperm health, and that includes the quality of the DNA in sperm. It’s no coincidence that you’ll find them in the Beli Vitality blend, and it makes for a great addition to an otherwise healthy lifestyle.

 Resources

Gat, I. et al. (2017). Sperm DNA fragmentation index does not correlate with blastocyst aneuploidy or morphological grading. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5462460/

Agarwal, A et al. (2020). Sperm DNA fragmentation: A new guideline for clinicians. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7502318/

Aitken, R. (2017). DNA damage in human spermatozoa; important contributor to mutagenesis in the offspring. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29082208/

Qui, Y. et al. (2020). Progress in Research on Sperm DNA Fragmentation. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7191954/

 Urol, T. (2022). Antioxidant supplementation on sperm DNA fragmentation and sperm parameters: a systematic review and meta-analysis. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9623341/

Cetin, I et al. (2010). Role of micronutrients in the periconceptional period. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19567449/

Additional Resources

When the plan is a baby, but you’re having a hard time conceiving, it’s normal to start wondering why. While there can be a number of issues in play, one tends to be overlooked: sleep quality. Specifically, men who have the sleep disorder sleep apnea could be at greater risk of fertility issues. Now, new research is drawing a more definitive link between sleep apnea and male fertility. Let’s review.

Read More

Fact: You can’t look at a guy—or eyeball his semen sample, for that matter—and determine his fertility. It just doesn’t work that way. The only way to truly assess sperm health is with a semen analysis. But there are a few lifestyle choices and truths that may indicate whether a man’s sperm is healthy and happy. 

Read More

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Read More

There’s a lot of chatter when it comes to male masturbation and what it says about a man’s fertility or whether it’s an issue when a couple is actively trying to conceive. And in the interest of clearing up the confusion, we’re taking a facts-based approach to the topic of men, masturbation and fertility.

Read More

For many of us, our twenties and even thirties are a time when the focus is on pregnancy prevention. And that’s okay! But even when the idea of motherhood is miles away there is tremendous value in understanding your fertility health and what you can do to support it during these young, carefree days.

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Raise your hand if you already know that you have a biological clock. From age 35 and beyond, there is a natural decline in testosterone and sperm quality. Just as people lose muscle strength, flexibility and endurance with age, sperm also tend to lose their "fitness" over the life cycle. But what does that mean—and does it really matter?

Read More

It’s an easy assumption, but you’re much better off thinking that every prenatal vitamin is wildly different in terms of composition, nutrient quality and, importantly, nutrient amount. Not only is that actually true, it puts you in the smart consumer mindset of understanding what matters in a prenatal vitamin—and why.

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Read More

Ever wondered why men produce so much darn sperm, especially if only one of them will ultimately fertilize the egg? There are millions of sperm in normal ejaculate because it increases the likelihood that one will reach the egg and seal the deal. It begs the question, what exactly happens on the journey to the egg?

Read More

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Read More

Diet has been suggested to have an influence on the quality and function of human sperm. More specifically, the results of a randomised trial have shown that including nuts as a component of a regular diet improved the quality and function of human sperm.

Read More

A shot to the balls may be played for laughs on screen, but testicular impacts really aren’t a joke. Worse case scenario, getting hit in the balls can affect fertility thanks to complications like sexual dysfunction, low testosterone and other issues. Let's discuss.

Read More

With the New Year upon us, there are all kinds of articles and videos making the rounds with predictions of the Zodiac signs most likely to get pregnant in 2024. But here at Beli, we take a much more scientific approach to conception. Here are the top eight things people will do to get pregnant in 2024.

Read More

Research shows that the overall health of both biological parents during the preconception window plays a huge role in everything from conception to pregnancy health to the lifetime health of their baby. Luckily, there are simple steps you can both take to improve your health together.

Read More

When it comes to becoming parents, good habits really will take you where you want to go. Now, new science is giving us insight into exactly how long it takes to form those good habits. We're breaking down all the ways you can build healthy habits to boost your chances of conception. Think of it as life-hacking, but for grown-ups.

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Read More

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Read More

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Read More

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Read More

You have big plans for parenthood in 2024, which means this is the time to start laying the groundwork for everything to come. While so much of conception is beyond our control, there are actionable steps you and your partner can take right now to support and nourish your fertility.

Read More

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Read More

When the plan is a baby, but you’re having a hard time conceiving, it’s normal to start wondering why. While there can be a number of issues in play, one tends to be overlooked: sleep quality. Specifically, men who have the sleep disorder sleep apnea could be at greater risk of fertility issues. Now, new research is drawing a more definitive link between sleep apnea and male fertility. Let’s review.

Read More

Fact: You can’t look at a guy—or eyeball his semen sample, for that matter—and determine his fertility. It just doesn’t work that way. The only way to truly assess sperm health is with a semen analysis. But there are a few lifestyle choices and truths that may indicate whether a man’s sperm is healthy and happy. 

Read More

While it’s lumped into the “bodily fluid” category, semen is a complex cocktail of compounds designed to support fertility. Like sperm quality, semen health can be influenced by lifestyle factors—an important realization for couples trying to conceive. From color to consistency, here’s what healthy semen looks like.

Read More

There’s a lot of chatter when it comes to male masturbation and what it says about a man’s fertility or whether it’s an issue when a couple is actively trying to conceive. And in the interest of clearing up the confusion, we’re taking a facts-based approach to the topic of men, masturbation and fertility.

Read More

For many of us, our twenties and even thirties are a time when the focus is on pregnancy prevention. And that’s okay! But even when the idea of motherhood is miles away there is tremendous value in understanding your fertility health and what you can do to support it during these young, carefree days.

Read More

Raise your hand if you already know that you have a biological clock. From age 35 and beyond, there is a natural decline in testosterone and sperm quality. Just as people lose muscle strength, flexibility and endurance with age, sperm also tend to lose their "fitness" over the life cycle. But what does that mean—and does it really matter?

Read More

It’s an easy assumption, but you’re much better off thinking that every prenatal vitamin is wildly different in terms of composition, nutrient quality and, importantly, nutrient amount. Not only is that actually true, it puts you in the smart consumer mindset of understanding what matters in a prenatal vitamin—and why.

Read More

Men really do benefit from specialized nutrition in the form of a prenatal vitamin that’s formulated to support sperm health. Here’s what that looks like, and how specific nutrients can impact a man’s fertility health before fatherhood.

Read More

Shilajit is finally getting the credit it’s due, and we’re proud to point out that our proprietary formula was the very first to include this powerful Ayurvedic compound. Here’s why shilajit is rapidly becoming the darling of the male fertility world–and what you’re missing if you’re skipping it.

Read More

Ever wondered why men produce so much darn sperm, especially if only one of them will ultimately fertilize the egg? There are millions of sperm in normal ejaculate because it increases the likelihood that one will reach the egg and seal the deal. It begs the question, what exactly happens on the journey to the egg?

Read More

Just as women’s bodies need to be prepared for pregnancy, men’s bodies need to be ready to contribute healthy sperm for conception. Nutrients are the foundation that support the normal structure and function of sperm and men's fertility health. Taking Beli’s male prenatal supplement is a proactive way to strategically fuel your body to optimize fertility contributing to your overall chances of conceiving and supporting a healthy pregnancy.  

Read More

Diet has been suggested to have an influence on the quality and function of human sperm. More specifically, the results of a randomised trial have shown that including nuts as a component of a regular diet improved the quality and function of human sperm.

Read More

A shot to the balls may be played for laughs on screen, but testicular impacts really aren’t a joke. Worse case scenario, getting hit in the balls can affect fertility thanks to complications like sexual dysfunction, low testosterone and other issues. Let's discuss.

Read More

With the New Year upon us, there are all kinds of articles and videos making the rounds with predictions of the Zodiac signs most likely to get pregnant in 2024. But here at Beli, we take a much more scientific approach to conception. Here are the top eight things people will do to get pregnant in 2024.

Read More

Research shows that the overall health of both biological parents during the preconception window plays a huge role in everything from conception to pregnancy health to the lifetime health of their baby. Luckily, there are simple steps you can both take to improve your health together.

Read More

When it comes to becoming parents, good habits really will take you where you want to go. Now, new science is giving us insight into exactly how long it takes to form those good habits. We're breaking down all the ways you can build healthy habits to boost your chances of conception. Think of it as life-hacking, but for grown-ups.

Read More

Here at Beli, we’re working hard to raise awareness of the important role men play in the baby-making equation, which brings us to today’s topic of men’s preconception health and specifically, sperm health. Knowing what you’re working with can save you a lot of time, but is at-home sperm testing considered an important part of men’s preconception health? Let’s break it down.

Read More

There’s a certain magic to the holiday season, whether you’re all-in on the decorations and the family time or a self-proclaimed Scrooge from mid-November to the New Year. But when you’re trying to conceive, it can be a challenging time.  We’re sharing five tips for managing the holidays when you’re trying to conceive.

Read More

Everyone knows that alcohol and pregnancy don’t mix. But what about before you’re pregnant, during the trying-to-conceive stage? There’s no evidence that the occasional drink—i.e. one or two a week—is going to torpedo your chances of parenthood. But it is true that the more you drink, the greater the likelihood it will have an effect on your health. Here’s what the research says about alcohol and your fertility.

Read More

You’re clear on the mechanics of making a baby, but how much do you really know about conception and fertility? There are a lot of wild stories, downright falsehoods and notions that are actually rooted in a kernel of truth out there. In the interest of sticking to the facts, we’re debunking 15 of the most common myths about conception and fertility.

Read More

When you’re knocking boots in an effort to get knocked up, timing is everything. Your best chance of conceiving is during the most fertile time of your menstrual cycle—when you ovulate. The key is figuring out exactly when that happens. Fortunately, you have a few ways of detecting ovulation. Here’s what to know about understanding ovulation and timing sex for pregnancy.

Read More

You have big plans for parenthood in 2024, which means this is the time to start laying the groundwork for everything to come. While so much of conception is beyond our control, there are actionable steps you and your partner can take right now to support and nourish your fertility.

Read More

Welcome to our little corner of common fertility and pregnancy terms! We know that jargon can be overwhelming, so consider this your very own baby-making dictionary. Here, confusing medical terms transform into easy-to-understand facts that help you confidently navigate your family planning journey. 

Read More

Is there anything worse than the two-week wait? All the listicles out there sensibly advise keeping busy and journaling and talking it out, but we’re sharing more specific recommendations collected from the Beli community. Read on for seven tips for surviving the two-week wait without losing your mind.

Read More