Strive for Success with Antioxidants

Written By Arman Zulhajar on Monday, April 2, 2012 | 12:33 AM

By Serene Anne

Infertility issues impact the rate of success for couples who are trying to start a family. Complication with the quality of sperms; amount, morphology and motility, are among the main causes of infertility in men. Seminal oxidative stress (OS) remains an alarming trigger for infertility in men; reactive oxygen species (ROS) is crucial for normal physiological functions of the sperm. However, when the found in excessive amounts, it results in oxidative stress; causing decreased sperm mobility, viability, and increased mid-piece sperm defects. (American Study for Reproductive Medicine, 2000).

Antioxidants are substances that protect the body against the detrimental effects of free radicals. Antioxidants include Vitamins A, C and E alongside beta carotene, lutein, lycopene and selenium. Poultry, vegetables, fruits, nuts and grains are the natural sources of antioxidants. However consumers may also opt for supplements to complement their daily diet for a better boost of antioxidants.

Polyunsaturated fatty acid is found aplenty in human spermatozoa and therefore is more prone the detrimental effects of the ROS. A number of naturally occurring antioxidant system scavenges ROS and avoids internal cellular damage. The American Study for Reproductive Medicine managed to prove the significance of oxidative stress in male infertility; high levels of ROS and low total antioxidant capacity (TAC) in infertile men. Lead researcher Marian Showell of the University of Auckland propose couples undergoing assisted conception techniques such as IVF and ICSI; to consider having the men take in oral antioxidant supplements to increase their partner's chance of conception.

Antioxidants function on the theory of free radicals; radicals cause devastating alterations of DNA in sperms which impedes its normal function. The production of sperms and eggs generate a great deal of oxidative energy, resulting in high levels of reactive oxygen species. The negative feedback mechanism of the body is triggered and the human body uses a number of antioxidant defence systems consisting of vitamins A, C, E, coenzyme Q10, glutathione reductase and superoxide dismutase. (Dr. I.V van Heerden, 2007) Semen contains naturally occurring antioxidants but they cripple due to lifestyle factors, infection and disease. It would seem obvious and prudent to go all out for supplements but some fertility doctor's advice otherwise.

Dr. Sherman Silber, the director of the Infertility Centre of St. Louis said that antioxidants will not help but delay as the wife's eggs get mature. Therefore this process is a disaster rather than help by delaying IVF for a male treatment that is not productive. Some doctors find the results of researches controversial; some trials had as few as 10 participants.

It is unwise to depend solely on supplements when the proper dosage and amount is yet to be determined; excessive vitamin A intake is known to be catastrophic to babies. It is however recommended to harness for antioxidants through fruits and vegetables; cranberries, blackberries, beans, avocado, citrus fruits and artichokes; to name a few.

Considering the fact that there is no universal treatment for infertility, and the lack of evidence to discredit the contributions of antioxidant treatment, couples should take precautions when undergoing any form of therapy. Men who decide that antioxidants may help them during the course of assisted conception, should always seek opinions from their doctors and only proceed when given the green light.

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