Antioxidants: Opposite effects on fertility in the two sexes?

30-80% of cases of male infertility are linked to damage caused by oxidative stress on sperm, and supplementation with antioxidants may improve sperm quality by reducing such stress.
The authors considered 34 controlled clinical trials performed on a total 2876 couples who had undergone artificial insemination due to problems of male infertility linked to the low number and poor mobility of the spermatozoa. The effect on the male partner of antioxidant supplements of any nature (vitamin E, zinc, carnitine, etc.) alone or combined was evaluated.
The parameters examined included the number of liveborn infants, pregnancies, miscarriages, stillborns, DNA damaged sperm, motility and number of spermatozoa, plus any eventual adverse effects.
Results have shown that if the man supplements his diet with antioxidants his likehood of succesful fertilization increases. In particular:
– males who took antioxidants were associated with an increase in the number of liveborns when compared to the control group.
– the use of antioxidants was associated with an increase in the number of pregnancies compared to the control group.
On the other hand, a possible side effect of the antioxidants may be to cause femal infertility, although the study is based purely on experimental models. The authours conclude that, on the one hand, this discovery may prove useful to women who experience difficulty getting pregnant since antioxidants are contained in a large number of foodstuffs, often as additives. On the other hand, further studies may help to identify specific antioxidants as a means of birth control and as a replacement of the current hormonal contraceptives.
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Source: Nutrafoods, Volume 10