Oral supplementation with antioxidants could improve sperm quality by reducing oxidative stress, a new US review suggests.
In the review 34 randomized controlled trials involving 2,876 couples undergoing assisted reproduction techniques (ART) were included (1). The trials measured the efficacy of antioxidant supplements (mostly including vitamin E, vitamin C, beta-carotene, zinc and folate – individually or combined), taken by the male partner of a couple seeking fertility assistance, in increasing live births and pregnancy rates compared to placebo. The pooled findings showed that men taking oral antioxidants had an associated statistically significant increase in live birth and pregnancy rate when compared with the men taking placebo. No studies reported evidence of harmful side effects of the antioxidant therapy used.
The researchers concluded that antioxidant supplementation in subfertile males may improve the outcomes of live birth and pregnancy rate for subfertile couples undergoing ART cycles. Moreover, further head-to-head comparisons are necessary for identifying the superiority of one antioxidant over another.
30 to 80% of male subfertility cases are considered to be due to the damaging effects of oxidative stress on sperm. It is believed that, in many cases of unexplained subfertility, and also in instances where there may be a sperm-related problem, taking an oral antioxidant supplement may increase a couple's chance of conceiving when undergoing fertility treatment.