The role of antioxidants in male infertility

Whilst several causes of male infertility have been recognised, in the majority of men the precise mechanism remains unknown. Many studies of such idiopathic cases at the molecular level have highlighted the significant role of “Oxidative Stress”.

This entails a state of imbalance between reactive oxygen species (ROS), aka “free radicals”, and antioxidants as an established factor in male infertility. Sperm are particularly vulnerable to DNA damage and accelerated cell death.

Antioxidants exhibit a beneficial effect in reversing sperm dysfunction. Supplementation may include the Vitamins C, E and B9 (Folic Acid), the trace elements Zinc and Selenium and the substances Carnitine, Coenzyme Q10 and N-Acetyl Cysteine. They have been shown to:

  • improve semen parameters (concentration, motility and morphology)
  • reduce sperm DNA fragmentation
  • improve clinical pregnancy rates
  • improve live birth rates

However, the heterogeneous nature of various studies, including the use of different antioxidants at different concentrations and in different combinations, hamper our ability to implement an ideal treatment modality. Proper diagnosis and treatment are difficult.  Antioxidants must be chosen so that they work in synergy and with some selectivity for the male reproductive tract. Overdoses and self-medication with antioxidant formulations that use random ingredients and dosages may be counterproductive and impair fertility. At RHG, we provide advice on when and how to use supplement combinations.