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Study: Antioxidants Don't Boost Female Fertility After All

Study says antioxidants may not boost female fertility.
Photograph by Getty Images/iStockphoto

We've been hearing about antioxidants and their amazing restorative powers for years now. They de-stress us! They ward off wrinkles! And most recently: They boost our baby-making odds! As a result, we've all been chugging our green tea and popping our blueberries more than ever. But is all the hype really worth it?

Well according to a recent review of 28 studies on the topic, the mystical powers of antioxidants may only go so far—at least when it comes to fertility boosting. While the free radical-fighting supplements do reduce oxidative stress, this seems to only help fertility issues in men, not women.

Unfortunate news, considering 12 percent of women of childbearing age struggle to conceive each year; and one-third of all infertility cases are attributed to the female partner alone. In addition, the National Infertility Association estimates that 85 to 90 percent of all infertility cases cause couples to seek drug therapy or even surgery, which is why the hope of turning to a supplement would be pretty incredible. (Not to mention more cost-effective.)

Marian Showell was a lead researcher of the study, as well as a coordinator at the University of Auckland's department of obstetrics and gynecology. As she explained to The Huffington Post: "It is thought that the free radical 'scavenging' effects of antioxidants would help to repair any oxidative stress occurring in the female reproductive process. This has not been disproven by this review. We just didn't have high enough quality evidence to prove or disprove it."

If that sounds a bit wishy-washy to you, researchers are much more confident about the benefits antioxidant supplements have on male fertility—a finding that could have a huge impact in its own right. After all, it's estimated that somewhere between 30 and 80 percent of all male infertility cases are caused by oxidative stress and their effects on sperm.

"It would be nice if we had easier answers for women," said Dr. Wendy Vitek, the head of the fertility preservation program at the University of Rochester's Strong Fertility Center. As she told The Huffington Post, "It would make everyone's lives easier if we could say, 'Here, take this supplement.'"

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