Selenium is a trace mineral that plays a crucial role in supporting various aspects of human health, including reproductive health. It is an essential component of several selenoproteins, which are proteins containing selenium in the form of the amino acid selenocysteine. One of the key selenoproteins involved in reproductive health is called selenoprotein P. Selenium's role in supporting sperm health is primarily linked to its antioxidant properties and its influence on the production and quality of sperm.1,2
- Antioxidant Protection: Selenium acts as an antioxidant by helping to neutralise harmful molecules in the body called free radicals. Free radicals are highly reactive molecules that can cause damage to cells, including sperm cells. By neutralising these free radicals, selenium helps protect the sperm from oxidative stress and potential DNA damage. This is particularly important because sperm cells are vulnerable to oxidative damage due to their high content of polyunsaturated fatty acids and the nature of their function.1
- Spermatogenesis: Spermatogenesis is the process of sperm cell production. Selenium is involved in the regulation of this process, particularly by supporting the development of germ cells into mature sperm cells. Selenoproteins are present in the testes, where sperm production takes place, and they play a role in maintaining the integrity of the sperm cells' DNA.1,2
- Sperm Motility: Selenium is thought to influence the motility (ability to move) of sperm cells. Motility is an essential factor in fertility, as sperm need to be able to navigate through the female reproductive tract to reach and fertilize the egg. Selenium's antioxidant properties may help maintain the structural integrity of the sperm's tail, called the flagellum, which is responsible for its movement.3
- Sperm Viability and Morphology: Selenium also contributes to the overall health and viability of sperm cells. Adequate selenium levels are associated with better sperm morphology (shape) and overall quality. Proper sperm morphology is essential for successful fertilisation.3
It's important to note that while selenium is necessary for reproductive health, excessive selenium intake can be harmful. Therefore, maintaining a balanced and appropriate level of selenium intake is crucial for supporting sperm health and overall well-being.
Selenium is typically obtained through dietary sources such as nuts (particularly Brazil nuts), seafood, lean meats, whole grains, and vegetables. Additional selenium may be obtained through supplements but not exceed 150 mcg from supplements sources daily. 2
- Mehdi Y, Hornick JL, Istasse L, Dufrasne I. Selenium in the Environment, Metabolism and Involvement in Body Functions. Molecules. 2013;18(3):3292-3311. doi:10.3390/molecules18033292
- National Health and Medical Research Council. Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand. Commonwealth of Australia; 2008.
- Dimitriadis F, Borgmann H, Struck JP, Salem J, Kuru TH. Antioxidant Supplementation on Male Fertility—A Systematic Review. Antioxidants. 2023;12(4):836. doi:10.3390/antiox12040836