Are Antioxidant Supplements Bad for Your Fertility?

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High levels of antioxidants may reduce the number of eggs you release during ovulation.

The Scoop

Men might get a fertility boost by taking an antioxidant supplement, but the same may not hold true for women, according to a study on mice that found common antioxidants, including vitamins Cand E, may pose problems for female fertility. Published January 10, 2011. in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study examined the effect of antioxidants on female ovulation, noting that in mice exposed to high levels of antioxidants, lower than normal numbers of eggs were released during ovulation. 

What’s the connection? Antioxidants work by eliminating cell-damaging molecules known as “reactive oxygen species,” the culprit thought to be behind inflammation and other health ailments. Researchers in this study now believe that perhaps some level of inflammation is needed to jumpstart the ovulation process (and enhance an egg’s ability to “burst” from the follicle). By doing too good a job at reducing inflammation, antioxidants may disrupt this natural process.

Your Fertility

Natural health nut? It’s always a good idea to run your supplements by your doctor to better understand how certain herbs, vitamins, and other holistic remedies you use may affect your fertility (same is true for your partner). Worried because your prenatal vitamin contains vitamins C and E? No need to stop taking it. Subjects in the study were exposed to much higher amounts of antioxidants than those found in prenatal vitamins.

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