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Sun, sex and babies: Could vitamin D boost fertility?

06 February 2012

By Ruth Saunders

Appeared in BioNews 643

Exposure to increased levels of vitamin D could boost your fertility, a recent study suggests. The findings may also explain why conception rates fall in the winter and peak in the summer in Northern European countries.

According to researchers from the Medical University of Graz in Austria, it has been known for some time that the vitamin D receptor is found in the reproductive organs of women and men. However very little was known about the role the nutrient played in reproductive health.

The study, published in the European Journal of Endocrinology, reviewed previously conducted research evaluating the relationship between vitamin D and fertility in women and men, as well as in animals.

The investigations showed that male mice bred to lack vitamin D receptors had lower sperm counts, while the females had abnormal ovary function.

Studies in humans present evidence that increased levels of vitamin D balance sex hormones in women and regulate the menstrual cycle, increasing levels of progesterone by 13 percent and oestrogen by 21 percent. In men, the nutrient was found to increase sperm count and improve sperm quality and testosterone levels.

Furthermore, in two of the studies reviewed it was found that conception may be more likely in the summer months. In a study of 2,300 men, researchers found that levels of testosterone and vitamin D peaked in the summer months and were at their lowest in March, after the winter. Women were also found to ovulate less in the winter months.

The studies led the Austrian team to conclude that, 'in addition to… the classic regulators of human reproduction, vitamin D also modulates reproductive processes in women and men'.

Does this mean that a sunshine holiday is in order? Lead author Dr Elisabeth Lerchbaum warned that although vitamin D could help to improve fertility, overexposure could lead to skin cancer.

She said: 'People could either spend more time outside in the sun - or they could take vitamin D supplements, which are a safe and cheap way to increase levels'.

Fertility practitioner Zita West agrees. 'Vitamin D is becoming increasingly important for fertility', she told Marie Claire magazine, 'Having done over 800 vitamin D tests, we have found that around 70 percent of our clients are deficient'.

However, as West points out, vitamin D deficiency is linked to other health problems such as obesity, polycystic ovaries and immune disorders. This demonstrates that the link between vitamin D levels and fertility are not clear cut.

Private MD | 31 January 2012
Daily Mail | 30 January 2012
European Journal of Endocrinology | 24 January 2012
Marie Claire | 30 January 2012
Huffington Post | 30 January 2012


20 November 2017 - by Dr Katie Howe 
Women who had fertility treatments were a third less likely to deliver a baby if they had low levels of vitamin D, compared with women who sufficient vitamin D, a review study has found...
18 May 2015 - by Dr Anna Cauldwell 
Scientists have shown that there are seasonal changes in how our immune system functions....
02 September 2013 - by Dr Shanya Sivakumaran 
Two UK newspapers have proclaimed the fertility-boosting benefits of the raspberry, with NHS Choices branding the claims 'misleading'...
18 March 2013 - by Simon Hazelwood-Smith 
Human semen quality may rise and fall in seasonal variation, with the best quality being produced in the winter and spring...

12 December 2011 - by Owen Clark 
A rare genetic variant causing lower levels of vitamin D has been linked to multiple sclerosis (MS), according to scientists...
05 December 2011 - by Dr Caroline Hirst 
Women receiving fertility treatment are more likely to become pregnant if they take multivitamin supplements, reports a UK pilot study...
24 January 2011 - by Dr Marianne Kennedy 
Couples struggling to conceive may be more likely to have a child if the man takes certain vitamins or other antioxidants, according to scientists....
31 August 2010 - by Julianna Photopoulos 
Researchers from the UK and Canada have identified 229 human genes that are influenced by changes in vitamin D levels. Several of these genes are implicated in cancers and autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS), Type 1 diabetes, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis....

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