Antioxidants to Treat Infertility and Erectile Dysfunction?

An ABC News Video Talking About Antioxidants and Their Effects on Sexual Health.

Antioxidants have long been celebrated in the alternative medicine and health food industries as the cure for numerous conditions, from aging to infertility, all believed to be caused by oxidation on a cellular level. Now science is catching up and asking the question: are antioxidants a viable treatment for infertility and impotence?

Tony Hagen of the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University and Fransesco Visioli from the Madrid Institute for Advanced Studies believe that they are. Hagen and Visioli have studied the existent research and recently published their analysis in Pharmacological Research.

In order to discuss antioxidants as a treatment, it must first be established that oxidation is part of the problem. “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,” says Hagen.

He is referring, in particular, to an age-related decline in nitric oxide production resulting in erectile dysfunction. Nitric oxide is a substance that relaxes and dilates blood vessels, including the smooth muscles of the penis which must be relaxed to enable blood flow into the erectile tissue.

It is also known that degenerative diseases linked with erectile dysfunction and infertility problems, such as high blood pressure, congestive heart failure and diabetes, are linked to low nitric oxide production.

Hagen and Visioli believe that antioxidants may reverse such a decline: “The data from laboratory studies is very robust, it all fits. There is evidence this might work, and the potential benefits could be enormous.” Lipoic acid, in particular, is looking very promising due to its sustained impact on vasomotor function and health.

Meanwhile, a research team from the University of Auckland, led by Marian Showell, have reviewed 34 clinical trials of couples undergoing infertility and subfertility treatments. The Auckland-researchers found that women were more than four times more likely to get pregnant if their partners were taking oral antioxidants. They were also five times as likely to experience a live birth.

“When trying to conceive as part of an assisted reproductive program, it may be advisable to encourage men to take oral antioxidant supplements to improve their partners’ chances of becoming pregnant,” Showell says in a press release.

While some men may certainly be helped by taking antioxidants to treat reproductive problems, caution must unfortunately be advised. More research is needed to prove efficacy and excessive consumption could be dangerous.