How many amazing human sperm facts do you know?
Sperm are remarkable specialised cells. Spermatozoa were first formally identified in 1677 by Dutch microbiologist Antonie van Leeuwenhoek. He described them as animalcules, a term meaning little animals.
It’s believed that van Leeuwnhoek subscribed to the theory of performationism, where by organisms grow from miniature versions of themselves.
We now know that each sperm doesn’t contain a small, fully formed human!
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Here are some amazing human sperm facts:
An average man produces 1,500 sperm per second! This high volume is to ensure that there are plenty of fresh sperm available at any given time. Compared with other mammals, human sperm is poorer quality.
Approximately 90% of ejaculated sperm is deformed. This only leaves a small percentage capable of reproducing. The more sperm produced then the better the chance of passing on the father’s genes.
In male humans, sperm cells consists of a flat, disc shaped head and tail. The head measures 5 µm by 3 µm and the tail is 50 µm long 1. So 20 sperm lined up would extend for 1 millimetre.
Sperm are propelled by a tail called a flagellate. This moves at 1 to 3mm per minute by rotating in an elliptical cone. This is equivalent to 1.2 cm per hour and almost 30cm per day.
Sperm can live for up to 5 days inside the vagina depending on how acidic the environment is. The average length of time sperm will live in the vagina is 1 to 2 days. In comparison, bat sperm can live for an incredible 145 days!
A typical ejaculate volume is around half a teaspoon. Although this doesn’t sound like a lot, on average this will hold 180 million sperm! Some men ejaculate around 400 million sperm.
Sperm Vs. Egg
Women are born with a limited number of eggs. Men on the other hand will continue to produce sperm all day, every day. There is no limit to the amount of sperm men can produce.
The head of a sperm has a structure called the acrosome. When it attaches to the egg, the acrosome releases chemicals that ‘melt’ a hole in the egg so that the sperm can penetrate and commence fertilisation.
Sperm have their own ‘body guards’. When sperm are mature have half the amount of DNA compared with other cells in the body. This alerts the immune system and the body will attempt to attack spermatozoa as they are considered ‘foreign’ bodies.
To overcome this, spermatozoa have specialised cells within the testicles that act as a barrier from immune system cells.
While some artificial reproductive technologies use that has been frozen, it’s not always effective. In 10 to 20% of men sperm cryopreservation causes irreversible damage, making them unsuitable donors 2.
To date the longest recorded successful storage of cryogenically frozen human sperm is 21 years.
Sperm like to be kept cool. There is a good reason why men’s testicles hang down. Sperm must be kept at a lower temperature than the rest of the body. In fact, they need to be 2 to 4 degrees lower.
This is why testicles will respond (sometimes very obviously) to changes to the external temperature. If the outside temperature is cold, testicles will ascend. Conversely, if it’s hot, they will descend. This physical adjustment occurs in an attempt to maintain a constant temperature to support healthy sperm development.
How can you make the best sperm?
Sperm will respond to your diet. If your diet is poor, you’ll produce poor quality sperm. Healthy sperm production and maturation requires access to essential nutrients.
When these are absent the body is unable to produce normal sperm. This may result in a lower sperm count, poor motility, and abnormal morphology.
Real sex is better than masturbation. Studies have shown that sperm samples collected via sexual intercourse can contain up to 120% more sperm3. This sperm also has better motility and morphology compared with samples collected from masturbation.
Ejaculate regularly. Even if you don’t have sex frequently, masturbating regularly can still help to improve sperm health. A reduction of semen turn-over can prolong the exposure to oxidative stress are reduce fertility.
Sperm doesn’t like stress. Exposure to environmental toxins is harmful to sperm health. This causes oxidative stress which damages sperm, reducing fertility. It takes up to three months for sperm to fully develop.
If you want to produce the best possible sperm it’s important to abstain from alcohol, cigarettes, processed foods, and other negative influences that can damage sperm.
By boosting your intake of key nutrients, it’s possible to minimize oxidative stress and support healthier sperm products. Fertility supplements can deliver an additional boost.
Improve your fertility with micronutrients
Several micronutrients such as vitamins, vitaminoids, amino acids and trace elements have proven themselves effective in improving sperm quantity, mobility and shape. This directly translates into better overall sperm quality and therefore a higher chance of pregnancy.
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For those reasons, male fertility food supplements are most definitely recommended as the first step in the treatment of oligospermia and asthenospermia.
Also men who have not yet taken a semen analysis test will benefit from supplementing micronutrients to ensure they are able to deliver high-quality semen.
There are no contraindications or side effects to this form of natural ‘sperm boosting’.
An excellent and detailed overview of many studies can be found in Steven Sinclair’s Male Infertility: Nutritional and Environmental Considerations.
A considerable range of male fertility supplements available on the UK market.
However, the products differ widely in price and composition. Menfertility.org has compared 10 of them in terms of value for money and the nutrients they provide.
The most effective male fertility nutrients
A multitude of studies has shown that highly dosed nutrients have potentially significant impact on overall sperm quality.
Vitamin D has been shown to improve sperm count, motility and morphology9.
Vitamin B9, better known as folic acid has been shown to increase count, motility and morphology10.
Zinc improves the immune system and significantly improves sperm count in combination with folic acid11.
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All of the male fertility supplements in our great test include several of these nutrients at once, albeit at a lower dose. This is a cost-effective and convenient way making this type of fertility therapy affordable and requiring taking only one all-in-one supplement instead of many.
To find out more about the effects of the individual nutrients and how the various supplements compare, please read menfertility.org’s male fertility supplement review.
The top male fertility supplements
- Smith DJ, Gaffney EA, Blake JR, Kirkman-Brown JC. Human sperm accumulation near surfaces: a simulation study. Journal of Fluid Mechanics. 2009. 621: 289-320 ↩
- Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority. 2020 ↩
- Gerris J. Methods of Semen Collection Not Based on Masturbation or Surgical Sperm Retrieval. Human Reproduction Update. 1999. 5(3): 211-5 ↩
- Imhof M, Lackner J, Lipovac M, Chedraui P, Riedl C. Improvement of sperm quality after micronutrient supplementation. e-SPEN Journal. 2012. 7(1): e50-e53 ↩
- Sinclair S. Male Infertility: Nutritional and Environmental Considerations. Alternative Medicine Review. 2000. 5(1): 28-38 ↩
- Scibona M, Meschini P, Capparelli S, Pecori C, Rossi P, Menchini Fabris GF. L-arginine and male infertility. Italian Journal of Urology and Nephrology. 1994. 46(4):251-3 ↩
- Lenzi A, Lombardo F, Sgrò P, Salacone P, Caponecchia L, Dondero F, Gandini L. Use of Carnitine Therapy in Selected Cases of Male Factor Infertility: A Double-Blind Crossover Trial. Fertility and Sterility. 2003. 79(2): 292-300 ↩
- Costa M, Canale D, Filicori M, D’lddio S, Lenzi A. L-carnitine in Idiopathic Asthenozoospermia: A Multicenter Study. Italian Study Group on Carnitine and Male Infertility. Andrologia. 1994. 26(3): 155-9 ↩
- Jensen MB, Bjerrum PJ, Jessen TE, Nielsen JE, Joensen UN, Olesen IA, Petersen JH, Juul A, Dissing S, Jørgensen N. Vitamin D Is Positively Associated With Sperm Motility and Increases Intracellular Calcium in Human Spermatozoa. Human Reproduction. 2011. 26(6): 1307-17 ↩
- Safarinejad MR, Shafiei N, Safarinejad S. Relationship Between Genetic Polymorphisms of Methylenetetrahydrofolate Reductase (C677T, A1298C, and G1793A) as Risk Factors for Idiopathic Male Infertility. Reproductive Sciences. 2011. 18(3): 304-15 ↩
- Wong WY, Merkus HMWM, Thomas CMG, Menkveld R, Zielhuis GA, Steegers-Theunissen RPM. Effects of Folic Acid and Zinc Sulfate on Male Factor Subfertility: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Fertility and Sterility. 2002. 77(3): 491-8 ↩
- Moslemi MK, Tavanbakhsh S. Selenium-vitamin E Supplementation in Infertile Men: Effects on Semen Parameters and Pregnancy Rate. International Journal of General Medicine. 2011. 4: 99-104 ↩
- Keskes-Ammar L, Feki-Chakroun N, Rebai T, Sahnoun Z, Ghozzi H, Hammami S, Zghal K, Fki H, Damak J, Bahloul A. Sperm Oxidative Stress and the Effect of an Oral Vitamin E and Selenium Supplement on Semen Quality in Infertile Men. Archives of Andrology. 2003. 49(2): 83-94 ↩
- Vézina D, Mauffette F, Roberts KD, Bleau G. Selenium-vitamin E Supplementation in Infertile Men. Effects on Semen Parameters and Micronutrient Levels and Distribution. Biological Trace Element Research. 1996. 53(1-3): 65-83 ↩