Boosting fertility with antioxidants: Selenium

Selenium, like zinc, is another important nutrient for boosting your fertility and the fertility of your partner. This mineral is used to make antioxidants called selenoproteins which help protect your body from free radical damage – very important in the process of cell division. With its protective effect selenium can prevent chromosome breakage which is known to cause birth defects and miscarriages. Deficiency in women has been linked to a higher risk of miscarriage.


Good levels of selenium are also essential for sperm formation and testosterone production in men. A lack of selenium in men is associated with sperm that cannot move properly, because selenium is essential for making sperm’s strong whiplash tails. In one double blind trial selenium supplementation resulted in an increase in fertility from 17.5 to 35.1 per cent in sub-fertile men. Other studies show that blood selenium levels are lower in men with low sperm counts.


Research suggests that the antioxidant activity of selenium may even make sperm more fertile. An interesting study looked at men with good sperm counts but low fertilisation rates during IVF treatments. These men were given selenium and vitamin E supplements each day. One month after starting treatment the fertility rate increased from 19 percent to 29 percent.


Selenium should be found in the soil where we grow our food but you can’t rely on this anymore, and as there are no obvious signs of deficiency you won’t know if you are getting enough or not, so supplementing is safer and wiser.


If you are trying for a baby you and your partner should both aim for 100 mcg of selenium a day.  (This amount of selenium is contained in the Fertility Plus for Women and the Fertility Plus for Men, see the Resources Page).

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