Antioxidants have long been used in the fields of alternative medicine and health as a remedy for many conditions, from aging to infertility, all of which are thought to be caused by oxidation at the cellular level. Now science is catching up and asking the question: are antioxidants a reliable treatment for infertility and sexual impotence?
Tony Hagen of the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University and Fransesco Visioli of the Institute of Advanced Studies in Madrid think they are. Hagen and Visioli published their analysis in Pharmacological Research.
In order to discuss antioxidants as a treatment, we need to talk about oxidation as part of the problem. "If oxidative stress is thought to be an underlying factor causing infertility, we should be able to do something about it," says Hagen.
It refers, in particular, to an age-related decline in nitric oxide production, leading to erectile dysfunction. Nitric oxide is a substance that relaxes and dilates blood vessels, including the smooth muscles of the penis which must be relaxed to allow blood flow to pass through erectile tissue.
Degenerative diseases linked to erectile dysfunction and infertility issues, such as high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, and diabetes, are also known to be linked to low nitric oxide production.
Hagen and Visioli believe that antioxidants can reverse such a decline: “The data from lab studies is very robust, all good. There is evidence that it might work, and the potential benefits could be huge. “Lipoic acid, in particular, shows great promise due to its lasting impact on vasomotor function and health.
Meanwhile, a research team from the University of Auckland, led by Marian Showell, looked at 34 clinical trials of couples undergoing infertility and subfertility treatments. The Auckland researchers found that women were more than four times more likely to become pregnant if their partners took antioxidants by mouth. They were also five times more likely to give birth to a live child.
"When trying to conceive in an assisted reproductive program, it may be advisable to encourage men to take oral antioxidant supplements to improve their partners' chances of becoming pregnant," says Showell. in a press release.
While some men can certainly be helped by taking antioxidants to treat reproductive issues, caution should unfortunately be advised. More research is needed to prove their effectiveness and excessive consumption could be dangerous.