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9 February 2011

In Australia, one in six couples is infertile, which is defined as after 1 year of failure to conceive.  Oxidative stress is a common pathology seen in approximately half of all infertile men.  The latest CoChrane review indicates that antioxidant supplementation can help improve treatment outcome in couples undergoing assisted reproduction techniques (ART).

Between 30% to 80% of male subfertility cases are considered to be due to the damaging effects of oxidative stress on sperm.  Oral supplementation with antioxidants may improve sperm quality by reducing oxidative stress.  The recent Cochrane review evaluated the effect of oral supplementation with antioxidants for male partners of couples undergoing assisted reproduction techniques (ART).

34 randomised controlled trials with 2876 couples in total were included in the review, which compared antioxidant supplement taken by the male partner of a couple seeking fertility assistance, with either placebo or no treatment.  The outcomes were assessed based on live birth, pregnancy, miscarriage, stillbirth, sperm DNA damage, sperm motility, sperm concentration and adverse effects.

The review finds that men taking oral antioxidants had an associated statistically significant increase in live birth rate when compared with the men taking the control.  Antioxidant use was associated with a statistically significant increased pregnancy rate compared to control.  No studies reported evidence of harmful side effects of the antioxidant therapy used.

The evidence suggests that antioxidant supplementation in subfertile males may improve the outcomes of live birth and pregnancy rate for subfertile couples undergoing ART cycles. Further studies are necessary to identify the superiority of one antioxidant over another.

Source:
Showell MG, et al. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2011, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD007411.

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