Antioxidants of growing interest to address infertility, erectile dysfunction

July 28, 2011, Oregon State University

A growing body of evidence suggests that antioxidants may have significant value in addressing infertility issues in both women and men, including erectile dysfunction, and researchers say that large, specific clinical studies are merited to determine how much they could help.

A new analysis, published online in the journal , noted that previous studies on the potential for to help address this serious and growing problem have been inconclusive, but that other data indicates nutritional therapies may have significant potential.

The researchers also observed that problems are often an early indicator of other issues such as atherosclerosis, and . The same approaches that may help treat infertility could also be of value to head off those problems, they said.

The findings were made by Tory Hagen, in the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, and Francesco Visioli, lead author of the study at the Madrid Institute for Advanced Studies in Spain.

"If oxidative stress is an underlying factor causing infertility, which we think the evidence points to, we should be able to do something about it," said Hagen, the Jamieson Chair of Healthspan Research in the Linus Pauling Institute. "This might help prevent other critical health problems as well, at an early stage when nutritional therapies often work best."

The results from early research have been equivocal, Hagen said, but that may be because they were too small or did not focus on antioxidants. Laboratory and in-vitro studies have been very promising, especially with some newer antioxidants such as lipoic acid that have received much less attention.

"The jury is still out on this," Hagen said. "But the problem is huge, and the data from laboratory studies is very robust, it all fits. There is evidence this might work, and the potential benefits could be enormous."

The researchers from Oregon and Spain point, in particular, to inadequate production of , an agent that relaxes and dilates blood vessels. This is often caused, in turn, by free radicals that destroy nitric oxide and reduce its function. Antioxidants can help control free radicals. Some existing medical treatments for erectile dysfunction work, in part, by increasing production of nitric oxide.

Aging, which is often associated with erectile dysfunction problems, is also a time when nitric oxide synthesis begins to falter. And infertility problems in general are increasing, scientists say, as more people delay having children until older ages.

"Infertility is multifactorial and we still don't know the precise nature of this phenomenon," Visioli said.

If new approaches were developed successfully, the researchers said, they might help treat in men, egg implantation and endometriosis in women, and reduce the often serious and sometimes fatal condition of pre-eclampsia in pregnancy. The quality and health of semen and eggs might be improved.

As many as 50 percent of conceptions fail and about 20 percent of clinical pregnancies end in miscarriage, the researchers noted in their report. Both male and female reproductive dysfunction is believed to contribute to this high level of reproductive failure, they said, but few real causes have been identified.

"Some people and physicians are already using antioxidants to help with fertility problems, but we don't have the real scientific evidence yet to prove its efficacy," Hagen said. "It's time to change that."

Some commonly used antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, could help, Hagen said. But others, such as lipoic acid, are a little more cutting-edge and set up a biological chain reaction that has a more sustained impact on vasomotor function and health.

Polyphenols, the phytochemicals that often give vegetables their intense color and are also found in chocolate and tea, are also of considerable interest. But many claims are being made and products marketed, the researchers said, before the appropriate science is completed – actions that have actually delayed doing the proper studies.

"There's a large market of plant-based supplements that requires hard data," Visioli said. "Most claims are not backed by scientific evidence and human trials. We still need to obtain proof of efficacy before people invest money and hope in preparations of doubtful efficacy."

More information: hdl.handle.net/1957/22169

Related Stories

Recommended for you

More surprises about blood development—and a possible lead for making lymphocytes

January 22, 2018
Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) have long been regarded as the granddaddy of all blood cells. After we are born, these multipotent cells give rise to all our cell lineages: lymphoid, myeloid and erythroid cells. Hematologists ...

How metal scaffolds enhance the bone healing process

January 22, 2018
A new study shows how mechanically optimized constructs known as titanium-mesh scaffolds can optimize bone regeneration. The induction of bone regeneration is of importance when treating large bone defects. As demonstrated ...

Researchers illustrate how muscle growth inhibitor is activated, could aid in treating ALS

January 19, 2018
Researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine are part of an international team that has identified how the inactive or latent form of GDF8, a signaling protein also known as myostatin responsible for ...

Bioengineered soft microfibers improve T-cell production

January 18, 2018
T cells play a key role in the body's immune response against pathogens. As a new class of therapeutic approaches, T cells are being harnessed to fight cancer, promising more precise, longer-lasting mitigation than traditional, ...

Weight flux alters molecular profile, study finds

January 17, 2018
The human body undergoes dramatic changes during even short periods of weight gain and loss, according to a study led by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Secrets of longevity protein revealed in new study

January 17, 2018
Named after the Greek goddess who spun the thread of life, Klotho proteins play an important role in the regulation of longevity and metabolism. In a recent Yale-led study, researchers revealed the three-dimensional structure ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.