Couples who are having trouble conceiving may benefit from moving to the bedroom to the great outdoors, according to new research.
A study by a University of Sydney doctoral student found that about a third of men with fertility problems have low levels of vitamin D.
Vitamin D is found in oily fish and eggs, and is naturally produced by the body in natural light – hence its other name, the “sunshine vitamin”.
The same men were also found to be low in folate, and had higher levels of a specific amino acid that indicates cell toxicity.
Dr Anne Clark, medical director of Sydney’s Fertility First clinic, said, "Vitamin D and folate deficiency are known to be associated with infertility in women, but the outcomes of the screening among men in our study group came as a complete surprise," she says.
While worries about skin cancer could be to blame for the widespread vitamin D deficiency, work and lifestyle choices could also be contributing to the trend.
But Dr Clark said men would get enough sunlight if they just had a short break outside during the day with their sleeves rolled up.
"The amount of sun needed is just 10 to 15 minutes a day outside the heat of the day," she said.
After taking part in the study, 123 of the men entered into a program that included lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, cutting caffeine and alcohol intake, and losing weight.
They also took antioxidants and a multi-vitamin for two to three months.
The DNA of the men’s sperm was 75% less damaged by the end of the study.
Best of all, the group had recorded 40 pregnancies, more than half of which had been achieved naturally or with only minimal intervention.