Antioxidants offer natural help for men who are infertile

Tuesday, January 25, 2011 by: S. L. Baker, features writer
Tags: male infertility, antioxidants, health news

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(NaturalNews) The multi-million dollar infertility industry offers a huge list of expensive -- and often invasive -- tests and procedures to help couples who have difficulty conceiving, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). Unfortunately, assisted reproduction technologies (ART) can have a dark side that'srarely mentioned by the mainstream media. High tech baby making procedures are increasingly being linked to an increased risk of congenital malformations as well a greater chance for several diseases down the road (

But now a new systematic review of research by New Zealand scientists just published in The Cochrane Library provides evidence a natural therapy could be a solution to fertility problems in many men. The study found that men who take antioxidant supplements are significantly more likely to get their partners pregnant (the regular old-fashioned non-ART way) than men who don't take the supplements.

Less-than-optimal fertility, known as subfertility, affects about one in 20 men. In the new research paper, investigators in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Auckland in New Zealand pointed out that chemicals known as reactive oxygen species (ROS) are cause damage to cells, especially sperm cells. This may explain why some men have lowered sperm counts which can interfere with their ability to fertilize eggs. But a host of antioxidants, including certain vitamins and minerals, are known to reduce the damage created by ROS.

The review zeroed in on 34 trials totaling 2,876 couples undergoing assisted reproductive techniques, including in vitro fertilization and sperm injections. Most men in these studies had been found to have low sperm counts or low sperm motility. The research trials examined all involved treating the men with many different types of oral antioxidants, including vitamin E, L-carnitine, zinc and magnesium.

The results showed that, compared to controls, a woman was far more likely to become pregnant if her partner took antioxidants. Other trials examined the effects of antioxidants on sperm concentration and motility and also found mostly positive improvements with antioxidant supplementation.

"When trying to conceive as part of an assisted reproductive program, it may be advisable to encourage men to take oral antioxidant supplements to improve their partners' chances of becoming pregnant," said lead researcher Marian Showell, in a media statement.

She added that the research team didn't have enough data comparing different antioxidants to reach any conclusions about which supplements may be the most effective in helping men achieve fatherhood. "We need more head-to-comparisons to understand whether any one antioxidant is performing better than any other," Dr. Showell said.

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