Antioxidants and Sperm Health

Eat Your Veggies, Guys

If anyone were to tell a guy that one of the best ways to boost his sperm health is to (are you ready?) eat his fruit and vegetables, he'd probably give you "the look." But, it's true, and here's why. Brightly colored fruits and vegetables contain loads of antioxidants, and research now show that a diet high in antioxidant foods may go a long way to restoring subfertility.

Subfertility affects one in 20 men and is responsible for 50% of the problems encountered by couples trying to conceive (TTC). Up to 80% of cases of subfertility are thought to be caused by the effects of oxidative stress on sperm which lowers their numbers and quality. A man who is subfertile is less fertile than average but still capable of making a baby.

The Give and Take of Oxygen

In order for the body to facilitate all of the millions of processes that occur in it every minute, it uses oxygen. The same life giving oxygen that assists in normal cellular processes becomes destructive once its job is done. The side effects are oxidant substances that cause oxidative stress within the body. This oxidative substance leads to cell damage and ultimately to disease and dysfunction within the body. We call the oxidative substance "free radicals."

Free radicals (oxidative substances) act much the same way as rust does on a metal object - it causes a breakdown on the surface of the object. Oxidative stress causes a breakdown of cells inside the body as the free radicals attack healthy cells, most frequently the DNA as well as proteins and fats. When it comes to sperm health, free radicals cause male fertility issues by breaking down sperm, attacking them to slow them down, causing them to be misshapen and reducing their numbers.

How Do Antioxidants Work?

Antioxidants work as scavengers of free radicals, subduing them by binding with them to decrease their effectiveness. Antioxidants also work to restore the damage done by free radicals. They are found naturally occurring in the body in these forms:

· Superoxide Dismutase, which changes the structure of oxidants and breaks them down into hydrogen peroxide.

· Catalase breaks the peroxide down into water and oxygen particles or gasses.

· Glutathione, a detox agent, binds with the toxins, changing their form so they can be expelled as waste.

Antioxidants are also found in foods, mostly dark green and brightly colored fruits and vegetables like oranges, tomatoes, red peppers, spinach and carrots as well as blueberries, cherries, and strawberries. Vitamins A, C, and E along with selenium, L-carnitine, zinc, lycopene, and beta-carotene are just a few of the more commonly known antioxidants that are available in foods and in supplemental forms.

Antioxidants and Male Fertility

A study that amassed the information gathered in 34 separate clinical studies of nearly 2,900 couples undergoing fertility treatments, including IVF and IUI (two of the more commonly used ARTs when men's sperm issues are prevalent), had some interesting findings in terms of antioxidant effects.

During the trials, half the men were given a placebo and the other half were given antioxidant supplements. The couples where the men took the antioxidants had more pregnancies and more live births than those who took the placeboes. The pregnancy rate was four times higher in the group taking antioxidant supplements. Researchers found that based on 96 pregnancies among 964 couples in 15 of the 34 studies, antioxidant use by the man increased the odds of conception four times. Only three of the studies had data on live births, but the data indicated that the partners of men taking antioxidants who had live births improved by a factor of five.

While supplementation is good, eating a diet rich in antioxidants is more important. And, of course, eating raw foods is better than cooking them.


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