by Dr. Steven Brody, M.D., Ph.D
On January 21, 2011 Reuters news agency reported another definitive evaluation reinforcing the role of antioxidants in sperm function. Couples who are struggling to conceive could find baby-making help from antioxidants such as vitamin E and zinc, According to a meta-analysis which reviewed more than 30 research studies.
Those who took antioxidants were more than four times as likely to get their partners pregnant than other subfertile men who did not take the supplements. The study did not look at men with azoospermia or absent sperm.Subfertility affects one in 20 men and is responsible for half of delayed conceptions. Up to 80 percent of cases are thought to be due to the effects of oxidative stress on sperm cells, lowering both their numbers and their quality.
Oxidative stress happens when molecules known as free radicals, byproducts of cell metabolism, damage DNA and cells’ ability to function. Antioxidants, including certain vitamins and nutrients, help to protect cells by stabilizing free radicals. This is the rationale behind the use of antioxidants to help sperm swim robustly.
The study was conducted at the University of Auckland, in New Zealand. The information was derived from 34 studies that involved nearly 3,000 couples undergoing fertility treatments, including in vitro fertilization and intrauterine insemination — two of the most commonly used methods of boosting conception odds when sperm-related issues are involved. Each study investigated the potential role of one or more antioxidants.
Antioxidant use by the male partner increased the odds of conception four-fold, based on 96 pregnancies among 964 couples in 15 of the studies. Antioxidants improved the likelihood of their partners giving birth to a live baby by a factor of five, the researchers report in The Cochrane Library. Only three of the studies contained data on live births, however.
Oral antioxidant supplements are generally safe and there is no evidence that they can cause any harm. In addition to oral supplements, antioxidants can be found in a range of foods, from cranberries to collard greens, tomatoes and mozzarella cheese.
The findings in this study support the use of antioxidant formulations such as Proceptin XL when enhancement of male reproductive function as desired.
Steven a Brody, M.D., PhD