NEW STUDY: Antioxidant use unlikely to boost female fertility

By: Dara Godfrey

Taking antioxidants in the form of pills is not the answer for increased fertility in women, a new study finds. Many women seeking a more natural form of infertility treatment turn to dietary pills such as vitamin C, E or a combination of supplements in the hopes of boosting their fertility. However, a recent review of the top 28 randomized controlled trials, led by Marion Showell, showed little evidence that antioxidant supplements increase a subfertile woman’s chances of conceiving.

This paper published this month in the Cochrane Library looked at 3,548 women undergoing fertility treatment and compared women taking the products to women given either a placebo or no fertility treatment at all. A variety of antioxidants were reviewed in the study including vitamins C, E, and D, as well as omega 3 fatty acids, melatonin, L-arginine, myo-inositol and pentoxifyline. Interestingly, antioxidant use in the women studied did not increase their chance of getting pregnant or giving birth to a live baby.

The positive news is that the women taking these products did not experience more adverse effects than women who were on the placebo. However, there is still limited data showing the potential beneficial effects of taking these supplements and it is still something that I do not recommend to my patients. A major reason to be cautious when consuming antioxidant supplements is that they are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and have not fully been reviewed for their safety. Antioxidants in food may potentially have more benefits than their supplement counterpart, so it is no surprise that I encourage daily consumption of antioxidant-rich foods such as beans, berries and dark leafy green vegetables. As much as it would be nice to provide supplements to help increase a woman’s odds of conceiving, adopting a healthy lifestyle, rather than turning to supplements, is still my main recommendation.

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