Saturday, September 25, 2010

"Nutritional Supplements" and Fertility

We've been seeing a lot of patients in the office recently on some kind of nutritional supplements, mostly to improve fertility, but some being taken (by men) as part of a regimen to increase strength or muscle-building. I think taking such supplements is unwise. Here's why:

Body-building supplements for men - Several of our patients with really low sperm counts (or even no sperm) admit to being on these supplements. Sometimes the guys say they are just using a "protein supplement" from the health food store; others admit they are getting something from a friend at the gym. We don't know just what's in these supplements, but some of them probably contain testosterone derivatives, which are well known to reduce sperm production. The good news is that sperm production usually comes back when the supplements are stopped, but it can take several months.

Fertility supplements for men and women - In my opinion, the use of nutritional supplements to improve fertility is mostly bogus. Nutritional supplement manufacturers are exempt from the rigorous regulations of pharmaceutical manufacturers. If you label your product as a nutritional supplement, you can pretty much make any claim about it you like. The "scientific proof" they hold up is nonexistent or quite flimsy. Although some fertility clinics recommend these products, in my opinion, they are a waste of money.