Research suggests that the pregnancy vitamin D may have a important role in supporting healthy birth weights and protecting sperm DNA.
Vitamin D is the collective name given to a group of compounds that help the body absorb key nutrients. Without vitamin D, the body is unable to properly utilise magnesium, calcium, iron, phosphate, and zinc.
Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) and vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) are particularly important for human health. In addition to diet, vitamin D is synthesised in the skin from cholesterol in response to adequate sun exposure. This vitamin is necessary to support overall health, including fertility.
Clinical Study: Vitamin D and female fertility in rats
There has been a series of animal experiments that demonstrate the importance of vitamin D in female mammalian fertility. One study investigated the effects of a deficiency in this vitamin on reproductive capacity, fertility, and foetal and neonatal development in female rats. The rats were either maintained on a vitamin D deficient diet or vitamin D replete diet.
The study found that
- Compared with the control group, rats fed vitamin D deficient diets exhibited a 75% reduction in overall fertility. Litter sizes decreased by 30%. Neonatal growth was impaired.
While the rats deficient in vitamin D in this study were still able to conceive, the quality of their litter declined. Other studies have confirmed similar results, with rats struggling to product normal mature eggs and exhibiting poor uterus development1.
Clinical Study: Vitamin D supports healthy birth weights
Vitamin D receptors are located in the uterus, placenta and ovaries. Calcitriol, an active form of this vitamin, is necessary for the synthesis of oestrogen and plays a role in embryo implantation. This compound also helps to protect the uterus and placenta during pregnancy. It elevates immune function to support a healthy pregnancy.
In a study by Gernand and colleagues, researchers were interested in determining the link between maternal vitamin D levels and measures of placental and newborn weight2. A total of 2,146 pregnant women participated in the study.
The study found that
- Women with low vitamin D levels in the first trimester doubled the risk of delivering babies with small birth weights.
- Women with healthy vitamin D levels gave birth to babies with larger birth weights.
This study confirms that vitamin D is important for supporting healthy foetal development. Low levels of this vitamin cause growth restrictions on the developing baby, reducing birth weight. Pregnancy complications such as hypertension, gestational diabetes and preeclampsia have also been linked to insufficient vitamin D levels3.
Vitamin D and male fertility
There is growing evidence to suggest that vitamin D is very important for male fertility. There are enzymes found within male and female reproductive tissues that specialise in metabolising vitamin D4.
Early research by Corbett and colleagues established that human sperm has receptors for vitamin D5. These receptors are concentrated in the mid-piece and head of sperm. Scientists believe that this vitamin may play a critical role in stabilising chromosomal structure and regulation of DNA fragmentation6.
Top vitamin D foods
Foods such as fortified cereals, soy products, shellfish, fish, eggs, dairy and mushroom are good dietary sources of vitamin D. Spending time outdoors in sunlight can also boost concentrations of this vitamin within the body.
Vitamin D has been shown to play an important role in the growth and development of unborn babies. There is evidence that this vitamin may also be important for the health of mothers during pregnancy. Other research suggests that sperm may rely on this vitamin to help protect sperm DNA from oxidative stress.
Using vitamin D to improve male fertility
Vitamin D is a powerful fertility enhancing nutrient for men and women, but it is also just one of many so called fertility-nutrients. Clinical research studies have consistently shown that
We have therefore compared all of the top male fertility combination supplements in a transparent, side-by-side evaluation.
VIDEO: How to improve sperm naturally with food
- “Yoshizawa T, et.al. (1997). Mice lacking the vitamin D receptor exhibit impaired bone formation, uterine hypoplasia and growth retardation after weaning. Nature Genetics, Volume 16, (pp. 391–6).” ↩
- “Gernand, A. et.al. (2013). Maternal Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D and Measures of Newborn and Placental Weight in a U.S. Multicenter Cohort Study. The Hournal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, Volume 98, Issue 1.” ↩
- “Bodnar L. et.al. (2007). Maternal vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of preeclampsia. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, Volume, 92, Issue 9, (pp. 3517-22).” ↩
- “Lerchbaum, E. and Obermayer-Pietsch, B. (2012). Vitamin D and fertility: a systematic review. European Journal of Endocrinology, Volume 166, Issue 5, (pp. 765-78).” ↩
- “Corbett, S. et.al. (2006). Vitamin D receptor found in human sperm, Urology, Volume 68, Issue 6, (pp. 1345-9).” ↩
- “Aquila, S. et.al. (2008). “Human sperm anatomy: ultrastructural localization of 1alpha,25-dihydroxyvitamin D receptor and its possible role in the human male gamete. Journal of Anatomy, Volume 213, Issue 5, (pp. 555-84).” ↩
- “http://humupd.oxfordjournals.org/content/14/3/243.full” ↩
- “Imhof, Martin et al., “Improvement of sperm quality after micronutritient supplementation” ↩