Scientific reviews suggest antioxidants may boost male fertility

Monday, February 07, 2011 by: Katherine East
Tags: antioxidants, male fertility, health news

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(NaturalNews) A recent review of studies done on infertility suggest that male fertility may be improved by taking antioxidants.

A number of studies on male infertility were reviewed by researchers in New Zealand and reported in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. The review focused on 34 controlled trials involving couples undergoing assisted reproductive techniques such as invitro fertilisation and sperm injections. Most men in the trials had low sperm counts or low sperm motility and were classed as sub-fertile, those with below-average fertility who are still able to father a child. The review found that those who took antioxidants had four times greater chance to get their partners pregnant than sub-fertile men who did not take the antioxidant supplements.

"Oral supplementation with antioxidants may go some way to improve a couple's chance of conception," said lead researcher Marian Showell of New Zealand's University of Auckland.

Approximately 1 in 20 men are sub-fertile and seminal oxidative stress is thought to be a major contributing factor. The amount of sperm a man produces is not the only determinant of fertility. A high percentage of the sperm must be healthy and motive. However, sperm are easily damaged by naturally occurring free radicals. The purpose of the review was to determine if taking antioxidants could protect cells from oxidative stress by keeping damaging free radicals at bay.

Some Of The Reviewed Study Data
964 couples took part in 15 studies. In the control groups (no antioxidants taken), the 449 couples had 18 pregnancies (3%). There were 82 pregnancies in the group of 515 couples who took antioxidant supplements (16%) . This indicated that antioxidant use by the male partner significantly increased the likelihood of conception

214 couples took part in another group of 3 separate studies. 20 live births occurred where men took antioxidants. Men taking oral antioxidants had an associated statistically significant increase in live birth rate when compared with the men in the control group taking the placebo.

Unfortunately the included studies did not use the same types or dosage of antioxidants, so the results are said to be inconclusive. These were considered observational studies without the ability to establish clear cause and effect. Further clinical trials would have to be done to confirm the link.

The findings reported in the Cochrane Database have come under fire from some fertility specialists who have labeled them a 'scam'. Fertility doctor Sherman Silber, the head of The Infertility Center of St. Louis, warned that trying antioxidants as a step before seeking fertility treatments would likely hurt rather than help, as the woman's eggs would only get older with the delay. He also labeled the review as a publicity stunt by vitamin manufacturers.

Other Studies On Vitamin C and Sperm Motility

Vitamin C is probably one of the most widely known antioxidants and has been the subject of numerous small studies to determine its effect on the motility of sperm. One study done with 97 non-smoking men showed that higher antioxidant consumption was associated with higher sperm numbers and motility. Semen naturally contains vitamin C to scavenge free radicals but these defenses can be overwhelmed. Increased levels of oxidative stress brought on by environmental factors like high temperatures and pollution, lifestyle factors like older age and poor diet, and health issues like infections and chronic disease all affect sperm motility.


1. Kessopoulou E et al. A double-blind randomized placebo cross-over controlled trial using the antioxidant vitamin E to treat reactive oxygen species associated with male infertility. Fertil Steril 1995; 64: 825-31.




5. Eskenazi B et al. Antioxidant intake is associated with semen quality in healthy men. Hum Reprod. 2005 Apr;20(4):1006-12. Epub 2005 Jan 21.

About the author

Katherine Oosthuis is completing a Diploma in Nutritional Therapy. She researches and writes for a health and nutrition website Detox For Life . Her passion is to make research available to those who are looking to improve their well-being and revolutionise their health through better nutrition and alternative medicines.

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