Fertility and pregnancy * Women's health * Men's health

Antioxidants improve male fertility

Antioxidants improve male fertility Taking supplements could increase chance of partner pregnancy

Men who take antioxidants may improve their fertility, according to recent research.

This could be an important development, as male subfertility affects one in 20 men.

Antioxidants include natural and synthetic chemicals which help to reduce the damage caused by chemicals called reactive oxygen species. The latter are said to cause damage to sperm cells, which may result in lowered sperm counts and interfere with their ability to fertilise eggs.

The review looked at 34 trials involving 2,876 couples undergoing in vitro fertilisation and sperm injections. Most men in the trials had low sperm counts or low sperm motility. The trials explored the use of many different types of oral antioxidants, including vitamin E, L-carnitine, zinc and magnesium.

Compared to controls, a couple was more likely to have a pregnancy or live birth if the man took antioxidants.

Lead researcher Marian Showell, from the University of Auckland, said: "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."

"However, these conclusions are currently based on limited evidence."

There were not enough data comparing different antioxidants to reach any conclusions about the relative effectiveness of supplements.

"We need more head-to-comparisons to understand whether any one antioxidant is performing better than any other," Ms Showell said.

The research was published today in The Cochrane Library.

This article was published on Wed 19 January 2011

Image © ktsdesign - Fotolia.com

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