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Antioxidants Won't Boost Female Fertility

Katlyn Joy |13, August 2013

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A new study published in the Cochrane Review looked at 28 randomized controlled trials and found that women with subfertility issues were not helped by taking antioxidant supplements.

Subfertility means to be capable of becoming pregnant but still considered of less than average fertility. This may include women with conditions such as endometriosis, fallopian tube problems, poor egg quality, or difficulties with ovulation.

The lead researcher, Marian Showell of the department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Auckland in New Zealand said, "I wouldn't say that women should not take antioxidants, only that there is no good evidence that antioxidants will help."

She went on to say that the research did not find any evidence that taking the nutrient would cause harm either.

The studies the researchers looked at involved over 3500 women and included a variety of antioxidants, such as oral supplements of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory drugs and supplements. Supplements included calcium, vitamins C, D and E, omega 3 fatty acids, L-arginine, melatonin, myo-inositol and pentoxifylline - a prescription drug used for endometriosis.

All trials compared women taking the supplements or medications to women taking placebos or not taking medications or supplements or any kind.

Women take such antioxidant nutrients or medications to reverse the oxidative effects of fertility conditions on a cell or tissues. However, the researchers found the supplements had no effect.

Women taking the supplements were found to have no better chance of achieving pregnancy or giving birth to a live baby, according to the researchers. Yet 20 to 30 percent of women trying to get pregnant take supplements.

Showell was responsible for another study in Cochrane in 2011 that linked antioxidants to better fertility in men. But there is a big difference in how antioxidants would affect males versus females in the fertility arena. Male fertility is strongly linked to oxidative stress but female fertility is affected by a variety of other factors and is more complex.

While actually eating a diet high in antioxidants may help a woman's overall health and therefore her fertility, there have not been any studies to prove that as of yet.

One reason it's difficult to tease out the effect of eating foods rich in antioxidants with fertility results is that a woman who eats such foods is also likelier to not smoke, eat healthier foods in general and exercise. This means it's hard to know whether a healthy lifestyle improved fertility or the minerals and vitamins did the trick.

The Mayo Clinic recommends these natural lifestyle choices to boost a woman's fertility:

  • Don't smoke. Smoking will age your ovaries and rob you of your eggs.
  • Limit caffeine. While studies are inconsistent, it's believed it may affect estrogen levels.
  • Exercise but don't overdo it either. Those who exercise too intensely may lower their progesterone levels and throw off ovulation.
  • Be careful about your exposure to toxins and chemicals especially at work, as many can impair your fertility and overall health.
  • Keep your weight in healthy parameters. Those who are overweight will likely take longer to conceive while those underweight may not be ovulating at all. If you are overweight, consider reducing your weight to your normal weight range.
  • Aim for a healthy diet which is high in fiber, low in fat, and contains a good variety of fruits and vegetables.
  • Prevent and treat STD's promptly, make sure you get tested regularly and get regular check ups. Fertility that isn't protected can be lost.
  • Lower your stress levels. Stress affects all areas of our health and can impair fertility.

While taking antioxidants may not be the magic cure for female fertility problems, often adapting a healthy lifestyle and knowing your own body and cycles will go a long way towards achieving your goal of having a baby.

Source: MayoClinic

Katlyn Joy is a mother to 7 children, and a freelance writer. She earned her Master of Arts in Creative Writing and Poetry, and a Bachelor of Arts in English and was previously an adviser to new mothers on breastfeeding through a maternity home program. She currently resides in Colorado with her family.

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