What Do Antioxidants Have to Do with Fertility?

Study shows partners of men who take antioxidants more likely to become pregnant

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Antioxidants, substances or nutrients that can prevent or slow oxidative damage in your body, have been shown to increase fertility in men.

Male subfertility (decreased fertility, not to be confused with infertility in which a male is inable to impregnate a female) affects about one in 20 men. This ratio may, in part, result from reactive oxygen species (ROS) causing damage to sperm cells. This leads to lower sperm count, which of course decreases the chances of fertilizing eggs. Antioxidants -- including the oral antioxidants used for this study (vitamin E, L-carnitine, zinc, magnesium and others) -- help reduce damage caused by reactive oxygen species.

The study followed 34 trials involving 2,876 couples undergoing assisted reproductive measures, such as in vitro fertilization and sperm injections, and found couples were more likely to conceive and deliver live babies if the man took antioxidants compared to controls. The results reflect 964 of the couples looking to conceive or deliver live births.

Other trials looked at antioxidants' impact on sperm motility and concentration, which indicated mostly positive effects, though group sizes were small.

Lead investigator Marian Showell, who works in Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Auckland in Auckland, New Zealand, said it may be advisable to encourage men trying to conceive to take antioxidants in spite of the analysis' limited evidence.

Some antioxidant-rich foods include berries, broccoli, tomatoes, red grapes, garlic, spinach, tea, carrots and whole grains.

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Review Date: 
January 19, 2011
Last Updated:
January 25, 2011