Antioxidants show promise in treating infertility

July 30th, 2011 - 12:35 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, July 29 (IANS) Antioxidants have shown promise in treating infertility both in men and women, including erectile dysfunction (ED), say researchers.

Fertility problems are often an early indicator of other degenerative disease issues such as atherosclerosis, high blood pressure and congestive heart failure, and the same approaches that may help treat infertility could also be of value to head off those problems, they said, reports the journal Pharmacological Research.

The findings were made by Tory Hagen at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University (US), and Francesco Visioli, who led the study at the Madrid Institute for Advanced Studies in Spain.

“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,” said Hagen, professor of healthspan research at the Madrid institute

Some commonly used antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, could help, Hagen said. But others, such as lipoic acid, are a little more cutting-edge and set up a biological chain reaction that has a more sustained impact on health.

Lab and in-vitro studies have been very promising, especially with some newer antioxidants such as lipoic acid that have received much less attention.

Researchers point to inadequate production of nitric oxide, an agent that relaxes and dilates blood vessels. This is often caused, in turn, by free radicals that destroy nitric oxide and reduce its function.

Antioxidants can help control free radicals. Some existing medical treatments for erectile dysfunction work, in part, by increasing production of nitric oxide.

Aging, which is often associated with erectile dysfunction problems, is also a time when nitric oxide synthesis begins to falter. And infertility problems in general are increasing, scientists say, as more people delay having children until older ages.

“Infertility is multifactorial and we still don’t know the precise nature of this phenomenon,” Visioli said.

As many as 50 percent of conceptions fail and about 20 percent of clinical pregnancies end in miscarriage, the researchers noted in their report.

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