Antioxidants Studied As Possible Treatment for Infertility

Growing evidence suggests that common antioxidants may help treat infertility issues in both men and women, according to researchers.A new analysis concludes that antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, and in particular, lipoic acid, may prevent certain factors that can lead to infertility problems and erectile dysfunction.

According to researchers, a condition called “oxidative stress” may be an underlying factor that contributes to infertility.  Oxidative stress is brought on by free radicals that destroy nitric oxide and reduce its function.

Because antioxidants can help control free radicals, scientists believe that nutritional therapies that incorporate these compounds may have significant potential in treating reproductive issues. Some existing medical treatments for erectile dysfunction actually work by increasing production of nitric oxide.

So far, researchers say that laboratory and in-vitro studies have been very promising, especially with newer antioxidants such as lipoic acid.  Polyphenols, which are found in vegetables, chocolate and tea, are also being studied.

Nutrition therapies could someday address a number of infertility problems, ranging from erectile dysfunction in men to egg implantation and endometriosis in women, as well as reduce the serious, sometimes fatal condition of pre-eclampsia in pregnancy. In addition, antioxidants may also improve the quality and health of semen and eggs.

Current statistics indicate that as many as 50 percent of conceptions fail and 20 percent of clinical pregnancies end in miscarriage, making infertility a much more common and widespread problem than most hopeful parents-to-be would expect.

“Some people and physicians are already using antioxidants to help with fertility problems, but we don’t have the real scientific evidence yet to prove its efficacy,” said lead researcher Tony Hagen. “It’s time to change that.”

The study was published in the journal Pharmacological Research.