Antioxidants may improve male fertility

Oral supplementation with antioxidants may improve male subfertility and lead to a higher pregnancy rate, according to a recent Cochrane Systematic Review

According to Cochrane the inability to have children affects 10% to 15% of couples worldwide. A male problem accounts for up to half of the infertility cases, with between 25% to 87% of male subfertility thought to be due to the effect of oxidative stress. Oral supplementation with antioxidants might improve sperm quality by reducing oxidative damage.

Cochrane authors reviewed 61 randomised controlled trials comparing 18 different antioxidants with placebo, no treatment or another antioxidant in a total population of 6264 subfertile men. The men ranged in age from 18 to 65 years and were all part of a couple who had been referred to a fertility clinic.

The results of the study showed that out of 100 subfertile men not taking antioxidants, 12 couples would have a live birth, compared with between 14 and 26 couples per 100 who would have a live birth if taking antioxidants. The results for ‘clinical pregnancy’ were similar.

The predominant supplementary antioxidants used in the studies reviewed were vitamin E, vitamin C, carotenoids, carnitines, coenzyme Q10, cysteine and the micronutrients folate, selenium and zinc. The study did not look at the efficacy of the individual supplements.

According to the authors, the quality of evidence is low and subfertile couples should be advised that overall the current evidence is inconclusive. Further large well‐designed randomised placebo‐controlled trials reporting on pregnancy and live births are still required to clarify the exact role of antioxidants, they say.

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