Men have a lower life expectancy than women throughout the world.
In rapidly developing countries such as Malaysia, life expectancy is gradually increasing which also means an increase in the ageing population. Hence, ageing-related diseases are escalating at an alarming rate.
When focusing on the men’s ageing-related health problems, the research covering on prostate-related diseases such as benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH), prostate cancer and prostatitis, men sexual dysfunction like erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation as well as men infertility are ubiquitous. The medicines for testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) have been the solution for the health problems associated with reduced levels of the male hormone, testosterone. However, the documented negative impacts of TRT on heart health have also raised concerns about relying on TRT for long-term treatment.1
Thus, herbal remedies and supplements have become an alternative option for men seeking for improving sexual and urological health.
Read on to find out which supplements can help men address these ageing-related problems.
Maca, the Peruvian root vegetable
The maca plant is sometimes referred to as Peruvian ginseng. The root of the maca plant has been used for centuries by native inhabitants for boosting overall vitality and treat infertility in men. The maca root extract has also risen to be a popular herbal supplement as it was shown to have a positive effect on both fertility and libido in men. Human studies found that supplementation of maca extract helps to improve sexual desire and sexual performance of healthy men as well as men suffering from mild erectile dysfunction (ED).2,3
The positive effect of maca extract in enhancing fertility in men has also been confirmed by several studies which resulted in increased sperm count and sperm motility in healthy adult men.4,5 One of the studies suggested that the fertility-enhancing effect may be related to the fatty acids and macamides found in maca extract.5
Tongkat Ali, the ‘Malaysian ginseng’
Tongkat Ali is one of the most popular and widely used traditional ingredients in Asian countries, especially in Malaysia. From the leaves of the plant to its fruits, bark and roots have been traditionally used for the treatment of high blood pressure, malaria, fever, diarrhoea as well as sexual dysfunction.6 Numerous studies had backed up the benefits of Tongkat Ali in promoting sexual health and enhancing male fertility. This also explained why the demand for Tongkat Ali-containing products is exceptionally high.
A study conducted in Malaysia and involved 75 male patients with a history of infertility shown that the intake of 200mg Tongkat Ali extract daily for 9 months improved the sperm quality of these patients as well as achieved spontaneous pregnancies in 14.7% of couples in study.7
Apart from being a potential alternative option for male infertility, supplementation of Tongkat Ali-containing product was also shown to be effective in enhancing sexual performance in healthy men.8 Although the main mechanism of action for Tongkat Ali in this effect remains unclear, the compounds in Tongkat Ali such as eurycomaoside, eurycolactone, eurycomalactone, eurycomanone, and pasakbumin-B may play a role in stimulating sexual desire.8
Ginseng, the precious herb in Traditional Chinese Medicine
Ginseng is an important medicinal plant found mainly in China, Korea and Japan. It has been widely used in the treatment of various conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, immune function, relieving stress and many others. Improving sexual health is also one of the notable benefits of ginseng which has been extensively studied and documented in clinical reviews.
Several studies concluded ginseng as a potential alternative option for improving male erectile dysfunction.9-11 The positive effect of ginseng on sexual function may be due to the presence of an active constituent, ginsenoside which protects against oxidation and the ability of ginseng in dilating blood vessels in the erectile tissues, thereby improving erection.10,11
Bird’s Nest, more than just a tonic for the skin
Edible bird’s nest is made from the saliva of male swiftlets that are rich in protein, minerals and sialic acid. Due to the rarity and high nutritional value of edible bird’s nest, it was deemed as a supreme delicacy in China back to nearly thousand years ago. Although the bird’s nest is commonly known as a food tonic for skin and overall immune health, an animal study demonstrated a positive outcome for the use of the bird’s nest on the male sexual problem.
A study conducted on male castrated rats found that the intake of edible bird’s nest may be effective for erectile dysfunction through increasing the levels of sex hormones such as testosterone and luteinizing hormone that are responsible for regulating reproductive system.12
Saw Palmetto, a well-known remedy for prostate health
It is easy to spot saw palmetto supplements either in a single ingredient or in combination with other ingredients targeting for prostate health in the local pharmacies or supplement stores. Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) or commonly known as prostate enlargement is not a serious health issue occurs in the elderly. However, men with BPH are likely to develop symptoms such as frequent urination, poor stream, urinary retention as well as incontinence.13
The fruit of the saw palmetto plant has been shown to be effective in improving urinary tract symptoms in men aged 45 years of age and older after a 6 months supplementation.14 Similarly, a 12 weeks study found that a herbal supplement containing saw palmetto extract was able to relieve BPH associated urinary tract symptoms in men aged between 49 to 75 years old.15
Lycopene, a potent antioxidant from the carotenoid family
The bright red colour of tomatoes is contributed by one of its major components as well as a natural pigment, namely lycopene. The lycopene is a potent antioxidant which plays an important role in protects our body against free radicals damage. (Read on to know more about antioxidants). Hence, the consumption of lycopene-containing foods such as tomatoes or supplement is linked with reduced risk of cancers including prostate cancer.16-18
A convincing study involved 49,898 male health professionals in 24 years follow-up nested case-control study concluded a reduced risk of prostate cancer in those with higher lycopene intake as compared to those with lower lycopene intake.19
As a potent antioxidant, lycopene was shown to exert positive effects on sperm motility and sperm DNA integrity by providing protection against oxidative DNA damage.20 Thus, lycopene may be a potential option for improving problems in relation to male infertility.
Alpha Lipoic Acid, a fat- and water-soluble antioxidant
Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) is an organic compound produced by the human body at a small amount and can be found in dietary sources such as meat, vegetables and fruits. Due to its mechanism of action in glucose and lipid metabolism and acting as an antioxidant, ALA is widely used as a supplement for alleviating diabetes complications.21
Following research conducted in 2008 found that ALA could improve the sperm motility rate and reduce sperm DNA damage, thereby improve sperm quality,22 numbers of studies conducted in recent years shown identical positive results of ALA in both infertile men as well as men with normal sperm characteristics.23-25
L-Carnitine, the energy booster
L-carnitine is an amino acid produced by the human body which plays a role in transporting fatty acid to the powerhouses of cells (mitochondria) for burning as a source of energy. Hence, it has been a known amino acid supplement for gym-goer for increasing strength, exercise performance as well as improving muscle fat burning. L-carnitine can be found in kidney, liver and brain as well as obtained from the diet, particularly from red meat and dairy products.26 Apart from that, carnitine is also found to be highly concentrated in the epididymis (a tube located at the back of the testicle that stores and carries sperm), testis and sperm.27
One of the studies examined the effect of L-carnitine supplementation on male infertility suggested the combined treatment with L-carnitine and L-acetyl-carnitine was effective in increasing sperm motility among infertile patients aged 20-40 years.28 Another study also showed that short-term supplementing L-carnitine was positively affected sperm count and raised the success rate of pregnancy through intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI).29
The Right Ingredients For Your Concerns
Each individual is unique. The age group, health conditions, lifestyle habits as well as the ability of your body to absorb certain nutrients and supplements differed from one another.
Choosing the right ingredients based on your body health conditions is crucial. Do you need just a single ingredient or a combination with other ingredients to achieve a beneficial effect?
Below guides may serve as a reference for you when choosing ingredients for the common men’s health issues. Alternatively, the Nourished Personal can be another hassle-free option to help solve your dilemma by identifying the ingredients that might be lacking in targeting specific health concerns from the professional point of views.
- Hyun JS. Vision and strategies for men’s health research in an aging society. The World Journal of Men’s Health. 2018;36(3):173-175.
- Gonzales GF, Cordova A, Vega K, Chung A, Villena A, Gonez C, et al. Effect of lepdium meyenii (MACA) on sexual desire and its absent relationship with serum testosterone levels in adult healthy men. Andrologia. 2002;34(6):367-372.
- Zenico T, Cicero AFG, Valmorri L, Mercuriali M, Bercovich E. Subjective effects of lepidium meyenii (Maca) extract on well-being and sexual performances in patients with mild erectile dysfunction: a randomized, double-blind clinical trial. Andrologia. 2009;41(2):95-99.
- Gonzales GF, Cordova A, Gonzales C, Chung A, Vega K, Villena A. Lepidium meyenii (Maca) improved semen parameters in adult men. Asian J Androl. 2001;3(4):301-303.
- Melnikovova I, Fait T, Kolarova M, Fernandez EC, Milella L. Effect of lepidium meyenii walp. On semen parameters and serum hormone levels in healthy adult men: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled pilot study. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2015; doi: 10.1155/2015/324369
- Rehman SU, Choe K, Yoo HH. Review on a traditional herbal medicine, eurycoma longifolia jack (Tongkat Ali): its traditional uses, chemistry, evidence-based pharmacology and toxicology. Molecules. 2016;21(3): doi: 3390/molecules21030331
- Mohd Tambi MI, Imran MK. Eurycoma longifolia jack in managing idiopathic male infertility. Asian Journal of Andrology. 2010;12:376-380.
- Udani JK, George AA, Musthapa M, Pakdaman B, Abas A. Effects of a proprietary freeze-dried water extract of eurycoma longifolia (physta) and polygonum minus on sexual performance and well-being in men: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2014; http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2014/179529
- Hong B, Ji YH, Hong JH, Nam KY, Ahn TY. A double-blind crossover study evaluating the efficacy of Korean red ginseng in patients with erectile dysfunction: a preliminary report. J Urol. 2002;168(5):2070-2073.
- De Andrade E, de Mesquita AA, de Almeida Claro J, de Andrade PM, Ortiz V, Paranhos M, et al. Study of the efficacy of Korean red ginseng in the treatment of erectile dysfunction. Asian J Androl. 2007;9(2):241-244.
- Choi YD, Park CW, Jang J, Kim SH, Jeon HY, Kim WG. Effects of Korean ginseng berry extract on sexual function in men with erectile dysfunction: a multicenter, placebo-controlled, double-blinded clinical study. International Journal of Impotence Research. 2012;25:45-50.
- Ma FC, Liu DC, Dai MX. The effects of the edible bird’s nest on sexual function of male castrated rats. African Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology. 2012;6(41):2875-2879.
- Kwon YJ. Use of saw palmetto (serenoa repens) extract for benign prostatic hyperplasia. Food Sci Biotechnol. 2019;28(6):1599-1606.
- Gerber GS, Kuznetsov D, Johnson BC, Burstein JD. Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of saw palmetto in men with lower urinary tract symptoms. Urology. 2001;58(6):960-964.
- Shi R, Xie Q, Gang X, Lun J, Cheng L, Pantuck A, et al. Effect of saw palmetto soft gel capsule on lower urinary tarct symptoms associated with benign prostatic hyperplasia: a randomized trial in Shanghai, China. J Urol. 2008;179(2):610-615.
- Gann PH, Ma J, Giovannucci E, Willett W, Sacks FM, Hennekens CH, et al. Lower prostate cancer risk in men with elevated plasma lycopene levels: results of a prospective analysis. Cancer Res. 1999;59(6):1225-1230.
- Chen J, Song Y, Zhang L. Lycopene/tomato consumption and the risk of prostate cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2013;59(3):213-223.
- Graff RE, Pettersson A, Lis RT, Ahearn TU, Markt SC, Wilson KM, et al. Dietary lycopene intake and risk or prostate cancer defined by ERG protein expression. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016;103(3):851-860.
- Zu K, Mucci L, Rosner BA, Clinton SK, Loda M, Stampfer MJ, et al. Dietary lycopene, angiogenesis, and prostate cancer. A prospective study in the prostate-specific antigen era. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2014;106(2): doi: 1093/jnci/djt430
- Zini A, Gabriel MS, Libman J. Lycopene supplementation in vitro can protet human sperm deoxyribonucleic acid from oxidative damage. Fertil Steril. 2010;94(3):1033-1036.
- Salehi B, Yilmaz YB, Antika G, Tumer TB, Mahomoodally MF, Lobine D, et al. Insights on the use of α-lipoic acid for therapeutic purposes. Biomolecules. 2019;9: doi:10.3390/biom9080356
- Ibrahim SF, Osman K, Das S, Othman AM, Majid NA, Abdul Rahman MP. A study of the antioxidant effect of alpha lipoic acids on sperm quality. Clinics. 2008;64:545-550.
- Haghighian HK, Haidari F, Mohammadi-asl J, Dadfar M. Randomized, triple-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial examining the effects of alpha-lipoic acid supplement on the spermatogram and seminal oxidative stress in infertile men. Fertile and Sterility®. 2015;104(2):318-324.
- Canepa P, Lago AD, Leo Cd, Gallo M, Rizzo C, Licata E, et al. Combined treatment with myo-inositol, alpha-lipoic acid, folic acid and vitamins significantly improves sperm parameters of sub-fertile men: a multi-centric study. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2018;22(20):7078-7085.
- Taherian SS, Khayamabed R, Tavalaee M, Nasr-Esfahani MH. Alpha-lipoic acid minimizes reactive oxygen species-induced damages during sperm processing. Andrologia. 2019;51(8):e13314.
- Bieber LL. Carnitine. Annu Rev Biochem. 1988;57:261-283.
- Aliabadi E, Mehranjani MS, Borzoei Z, Talaei-Khozani T, Mirkhani H, Tabesh H. Effects of l-carnitine and l-acetyl-carnitine on testicular sperm motility and chromatin quality. Iran J Reprod Med. 2012;10(2):77-82.
- Lenzi A, Sgro P, Salacone P, Paoli D, Gilio B, Lombardo F, et al. A placebo-controlled double-blind randomized trial of the use of combined l-carnitine and l-acetyl-carnitine treatment in men with asthenozoospermia. Fertil Steril. 2004;81(6):1578-1584.
- Wu ZM, Lu X, Wang YW, Sun J, Tao JW, Yin FH, et al. Short-term medication of l-carnitine before intracytoplasmic sperm injection for infertile men with oligoasthenozoospermia. Zhonghua Nan Ke Xue. 2012;18(3):253-256.