An analysis published online on July 1, 2011 in the journal Pharmacological Research reviews the role of antioxidants in the treatment of infertility issues in men and women, and concludes that the compounds show significant promise via their effects on vascular function.
"While the direct effects of antioxidant treatment on the quality of semen and oocytes [eggs] are still under investigation, a significant body of evidence points to loss of vascular tone as a root-cause of erectile dysfunction and, possibly, alterations to female reproduction," write authors Francesco Visioli and Tory M. Hagen. "Infertility in both males and females appear to be linked by a profound loss in endothelial-dependent vascular function."
The authors remark that nitric oxide synthesis and bioavailability, which play a major role in vascular function, are impaired by unstable compounds known as free radicals. These damaging molecules can be controlled, in part, by increasing the availability of antioxidants, contained in food and supplements. While commonly supplemented antioxidants, including vitamins C and E may be helpful, other antioxidants, such as lipoic acid, may have a more profound benefit. "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," commented Dr Hagen, who is the Jamieson Chair of Healthspan Research at 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 jury is still out on this," Dr Hagen noted. "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."
"Some people and physicians are already using antioxidants to help with fertility problems, but we don't have the real scientific evidence yet to prove its efficacy," Dr Hagen added. "It's time to change that."
Risk factors for ED include conditions such as high blood pressure, abnormally high blood lipids (i.e., elevated low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglycerides), obesity, diabetes, and smoking (McKay D 2004). Recently, some US scientists reported that it may be necessary to add aging itself to the list of risk factors that produce vascular dysfunction of the kind associated with ED. "The normal aging process may induce significant global vascular dysfunction (involving the endothelium and the vascular smooth muscle)," wrote scientists published in the International Journal of Cardiology. This age-associated dysfunction was judged to occur even in the absence of clinically diagnosed atherosclerosis and was related to alterations in the production of endothelial nitric oxide (Al-Shaer MH et al 2006).
The link between ED and vascular disease is so strong that physicians are advised to consider men who present with ED but no diagnosis of heart disease as undiagnosed cardiovascular patients until proven otherwise (Jackson G et al 2006). It is believed that alterations in the availability of vascular endothelial nitric oxide represent the common thread linking these interrelated pathologies (Sullivan ME et al 1999).
ED is a very serious condition that can gravely affect a man's quality of life. In many cases, however, ED has physical causes that can be remedied through lifestyle changes and supplementation. Men who are overweight may find some relief through weight loss. In addition, a number of supplements may help:
L-arginine—2 to 9 grams (g) daily
Yohimbine—6 mg daily
Ginseng—900 to 2700 mg daily
Maca extract—3 g daily
Ginkgo biloba—120 mg daily
Zinc—30 to 50 mg daily
Grape seed extract—100 mg daily
Chrysin—1400 to 2800 mg daily
Icariin—80 mg daily
Testofen—500 mg daily
Saw palmetto—320 mg daily
Nettle extract—240 mg daily
DHEA—50 to 75 mg daily. A DHEA blood test after 3 to 6 weeks can enable one to optimize individual dosing.
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