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Do Antioxidants Increase Fertility?

A common question about getting pregnant is whether antioxidants increase fertility in women and men. The research will surprise you!

In A Surprising Cause of Infertility in Women – Antioxidants, research suggests that antioxidants don’t increase female fertility. In fact, they may decrease fertility in women.

A snippet from that article:

“Research shows that antioxidants improve health and slow the aging process by neutralizing harmful free radicals in our body. But, this fertility research about antioxidants and fertility shows that antioxidants eliminate molecules that women need to get pregnant. When researchers applied antioxidants to the ovaries of female mice, the results were surprising: ovulation levels dropped precipitously.

That is, very few eggs were released from the ovarian follicles to reach the site of fertilization, compared to those mice who didn’t receive antioxidants. Thus, antioxidants weren’t shown to increase fertility in the mice in this study.”

Here’s a summary of new research, from a review in The Cochrane Library…

Do Antioxidants Increase Fertility?

There is no high quality evidence that antioxidant supplements help to increase a woman’s chances of having a baby, according to the results of a new systematic review. The review, published in The Cochrane Library, found women were no more likely to conceive when taking oral antioxidants and that there was limited information about potential harms.

Around 25% of couples trying to get pregnant are thought to have difficulty conceiving. Women undergoing fertility treatment often take dietary supplements, including antioxidants, to try to increase their chances of becoming pregnant.

However, many antioxidant supplements taken to improve fertility are unregulated. Further, there is limited evidence on their safety and effects.

The researchers analysed data from 28 trials involving a total of 3,548 women attending fertility clinics. Antioxidants did not increase the women’s chances of conceiving or having a baby. The results show no significant increase in women becoming pregnant when taking antioxidants compared to those taking placebos or being given standard treatment, including folic acid.

Antioxidants and female fertility levels

“There is no evidence in this review that suggests taking an antioxidant is beneficial for women who are trying to conceive,” said lead researcher, Marian Showell, who works in Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Auckland in Auckland, New Zealand.

Only 14 of the trials reported on adverse effects such as miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy. Women taking antioxidants experienced no more adverse effects compared to those who received placebos or standard treatment.

Overall, the researchers considered the quality of the trials to be low or very low and the number of different antioxidants tested made it difficult to make comparisons. “We could not assess whether one antioxidant was better than another,” said Showell.

Should you avoid antioxidants to increase your fertility?

It’s important to talk to your health care provider – or, preferably, a fertility doctor – about your antioxidant consumption. Personally, I think you’d need to eat a high level of antioxidants to decrease your fertility levels (like the first study suggested). But, you may not need to purchase expensive antioxidants and antioxidant-laden food to increase fertility and get pregnant.

For more info on foods for fertility, read What Not to Eat When You Want to Get Pregnant – From Soy to Salami.

What do you think? Comments welcome below!

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This is a press release from the journal The Cochrane Library, called Do Antioxidants Improve a Woman’s Chances of Conceiving?

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