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19 January 2011
Antioxidants provide male fertility boost
by George Atkinson

Antioxidant supplements may benefit couples who have difficulty conceiving naturally, suggests a new review of clinical trials published today in The Cochrane Library.

The review notes that chemicals called reactive oxygen species (ROS) can cause damage to sperm cells, which may result in lowered sperm counts and interfere with their ability to fertilize eggs. Antioxidants include certain vitamins and minerals which help to reduce the damage caused by ROS.

The review focused on 34 trials involving nearly 3,000 couples undergoing assisted reproductive techniques. 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.

The review found that a pregnancy or live birth was more likely if the man took antioxidants. Other trials tested the effects of antioxidants on sperm motility and concentration and showed mostly positive effects, although study group sizes were small.

"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," said lead researcher Marian Showell, from the University of Auckland, New Zealand. "However, these conclusions are currently based on limited evidence."

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Source: The Cochrane Library

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