L-carnitine is a chemical similar to an amino acid but is actually more like a vitamin. Although most people do not typically associate it with male fertility, it is vital for male fertility.
This is due to its ability to protect sperm cells from oxidative stress and L-carnitine playing a key role in sperm concentration, motility, nuclear DNA integrity and morphology.
The Science on Low L-Carnitine Levels and Male Fertility
So long as you have consumed the amino acids lysine and methionine in adequate amounts, then your body will go on and make L-carnitine on its own. Plenty of vitamin C is also needed to help the body produce enough L-carnitine to meet its demands.
L-carnitine plays a crucial role in energy production. It does this by transporting fatty acids into the mitochondria within your cells, ensuring they are metabolised and turned into energy. The mitochondria are parts of the cell whose primary function is to produce energy.
Almost every cell in your body needs L-carnitine, so it is not surprising that low levels were found to lower male fertility levels in a study. In this study, researchers noted that infertile men have statistically significant lower concentrations of L-carnitine. There was also a positive correlation between seminal plasma L-carnitine levels, the percentage of motile sperm, sperm count and normal morphology.
L-Carnitine is also an excellent antioxidant which means it can tackle free radicals that cause oxidative stress when unopposed. This is how it helps protect sperm from the same damage that can render sperm of low quality.
Where to Get Good Food Sources of L-Carnitine, and How Much is Needed
People who adhere to a vegan lifestyle or those with specific genetic issues may not produce or obtain enough L-carnitine. This is why it is labelled a ‘conditionally essential nutrient’. If you are a vegan male who is planning to conceive in the future, then it is always a good idea to consult a registered nutritionist or registered dietitian who can help you to take in adequate amounts through your diet and sometimes in conjunction with a supplement.
Supplementing with L-Carnitine for Fertility Health
An interesting and very relevant study has shown that when L-carnitine is supplemented in men, it improves fertility. This highlights the importance for men who are looking to conceive to ensure that their levels are adequate before conception happens to avoid any fertility issues that a deficiency can cause.
This study demonstrated that at the three-month mark, every single participant had improved their sperm quality. Other male fertility markers that had improved were: total sperm count, motility, nuclear DNA integrity, and morphology. Also, at the six-month mark, the sperm was significantly more able to penetrate the woman’s cervical mucus, which is vital for pregnancy to occur.
A study has also demonstrated that L-carnitine can lower oxidative stress placed on spermatozoa. This shows the significance of this chemical for reducing oxidative stress, which has also been shown to be the single biggest factor for causing male infertility as oxidative stress directly affects and damages DNA. So for every couple planning to get pregnant, it is vital that male fertility is addressed and sperm is protected from free radical damage before conceiving.
It is important to note that when using supplements to improve male fertility, studies have repeatedly demonstrated that combinations of multiple nutrients are better than when single nutrients are taken alone.
Key Points on L-Carnitine and Fertility
L-carnitine is similar to amino acids in structure but is technically more vitamin-like and has shown to be critical for male fertility due to its ability to enhance fertility health. Supplementing with L-carnitine has been shown in studies to improve sperm health which is connected to falling pregnant and is sometimes overlooked, with most of the attention being placed on a woman’s fertility health. L-carnitine is just one nutrient that may help create strong fertility health in males, but for best results, it should be taken alongside other fertility optimising nutrients.