Purpose: We explored the efficacy of selenium and/or or N-acetyl-cysteine for improving semen parameters in infertile men, and the associations among semen quality and the concentrations of selenium and N-acetyl-cysteine in seminal plasma.
Materials and methods: The study included 468 infertile men with idiopathic oligo-asthenoteratospermia who were randomized to receive 200 microg selenium orally daily (selenium group of 116), 600 mg N-acetyl-cysteine orally daily (N-acetyl-cysteine group of 118), 200 microg selenium plus 600 mg N-acetyl-cysteine orally daily (selenium plus N-acetyl-cysteine group of 116) or similar regimen of placebo (control group of 118) for 26 weeks, followed by a 30-week treatment-free period. These patients provided blood samples for the measurement of serum testosterone, estradiol, follicle-stimulating hormone, luteinizing hormone, prolactin, inhibin B, selenium and N-acetyl-cysteine. Semen samples were also obtained for routine semen analysis, and the measurement of seminal plasma selenium and N-acetyl-cysteine.
Results: In response to selenium and N-acetyl-cysteine treatment serum follicle-stimulating hormone decreased but serum testosterone and inhibin B increased. All semen parameters significantly improved with selenium and N-acetyl-cysteine treatment. Administering selenium plus N-acetyl-cysteine resulted in additive beneficial effects. A significant positive correlation existed between the seminal plasma concentrations of selenium and N-acetyl-cysteine, and semen parameters. A strong correlation was observed between the sum of the selenium and N-acetyl-cysteine concentrations, and mean sperm concentration (r = 0.67, p = 0.01), sperm motility (r = 0.64, p = 0.01) and percent normal morphology (r = 0.66, p = 0.01).
Conclusions: These results indicate that supplemental selenium and N-acetyl-cysteine improve semen quality. We advocate their use for male infertility treatment.