(BlackDoctor.org) — A growing body of evidence suggests that antioxidants may have significant value in addressing infertility issues in both women and men, including erectile dysfunction, and researchers say that large, specific clinical studies are merited to determine how much they could help.
A new analysis, published online in the journal Pharmacological Research, noted that previous studies on the potential for antioxidants to help address this serious and growing problem have been inconclusive, but that other data indicates nutritional therapies may have significant potential.
The researchers also observed that infertility problems are often an early indicator of other degenerative disease issues such as atherosclerosis, high blood pressure and congestive heart failure. The same approaches that may help treat infertility could also be of value to head off those problems, they said.
The findings were made by Tory Hagen, in the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, and Francesco Visioli, lead author of 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, the Jamieson Chair of Healthspan Research in the Linus Pauling Institute. “This might help prevent other critical health problems as well, at an early stage when nutritional therapies often work best.”
The results from early research have been equivocal, Hagen said, but that may be because they were too small or did not focus on antioxidants. Laboratory and in-vitro studies have been very promising, especially with some newer antioxidants such as lipoic acid that have received much less attention.
“The jury is still out on this,” Hagen said. “But the problem is huge, and the data from laboratory studies is very robust, it all fits. There is evidence this might work, and the potential benefits could be enormous.”
The researchers from Oregon and Spain point, in particular, 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.