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18 August 2003
Tree Bark Improves Sperm Quality
by George Atkinson

Scott J. Roseff and his colleagues at the West Essex Center for Advanced Reproductive Endocrinology asked four "subfertile" male patients to take daily supplements of a French maritime pine bark extract called Pycnogenol for three months. The men had relatively high numbers of deformed sperm, as well as low sperm counts and activity, all of which could limit their ability to fertilize a woman's egg.

The idea for the research project began with Dr. Roseff and his colleagues recognizing that antioxidants, such as vitamins E and C, can improve sperm and correct some cases of male infertility. Pycnogenol is an herb-like complex of natural antioxidants.

After 90 days of supplementation with Pycnogenol, the percentage of structurally normal sperm - that is, non-deformed sperm - increased by an average of 99 percent in the men. Sperm count and activity did not change.

"Basically, the number of deformed sperm went down and the number of normal sperm went up after the men took Pycnogenol supplements," Dr. Roseff said. "The increase in morphologically (structurally) normal sperm is significant, although this is just a preliminary study. Pycnogenol could enable some couples to forgo expensive in-vitro fertilization in favor of simpler and less expensive intrauterine insemination," he said.

Dr. Roseff's findings were presented at the 54th Annual Meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine/16th World Congress on Fertility and Sterility.

Pycnogenol is an extensively studied natural antioxidant that has been found useful in maintaining the health of blood vessel walls and circulation. It works, at least in part, by quenching hazardous molecules known as free radicals. Free radicals have been shown to damage DNA and cells, contributing to aging and diseases.

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