Male factors contribute to almost 50% of the reported causes of infertility. Several causes of male factor infertility have been recognised, however in most cases the exact cause remains unknown (idiopathic). Recent studies have highlighted the significant contribution of oxidative stress (OS), a term given to describe the imbalance of the bodies’ redox state caused either by too high levels of oxidants or too low amounts of antioxidants.

Reactive oxygen species (ROS) or ‘free radicals’ are highly reactive oxygen-derived molecules. They are produced by the sperm cell in small quantities providing beneficial functional effects such as sperm capacitation. However, high levels of ROS may have paradoxical effects on sperm function and increased DNA damage. 

ROS are counterbalanced by antioxidants that help maintain the equilibrium in the redox potential desired for optimal sperm function. Although seminal fluid is rich in antioxidants that nourish and protect the sperm, there is also a need for additional compounds that are consumed through diet or as supplements.

A large number of compounds with antioxidant properties have been investigated for the treatment of infertile men. 

A recent large systemic review assessed the impact of oral antioxidants on measures of sperm OS and/or DNA damage. The authors selected 20 trials studying this outcome and showed that a significant reduction in OS or SDF after treatment with antioxidants was reported by 19 of them.

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