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The role of food supplements in the treatment of the infertile man

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      Abstract

      Recently, concerns have been raised about the presumptive increased risk of serious undesirable side effects in children born after IVF and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). These treatments must, therefore, be reserved as the ultimate option after evidence-based and cause-directed treatment of the male patient with deficient semen has been exhausted. The present authors found that sperm quality and function improved with the intake of complementary food supplementation using a combination of zinc and folic acid, or the antioxidant astaxanthin (Astacarox®), or an energy-providing combination containing (actyl)-carnitine (Proxeed®). Also, double blind trials showed that the latter two substances increase spontaneous or intrauterine insemination- (IUI-) assisted conception rates. Extracts of Pinus maritima bark (Pycnogenol®), which inhibits the cyclo-oxygenase enzyme, reducing prostaglandin production and inflammatory reaction, and extracts of the Peruvian plant Lepidium meyenii were shown to improve sperm morphology and concentration, respectively, in uncontrolled trials. Linseed (flaxseed) oil contains alfa-linolenic acid and lignans. The former corrects the deficient intake of omega-3 essential fatty acids, which is correlated with impaired sperm motility among subfertile men. Lignans are precursors of enterolacton, which inhibits aromatase and reduces the ratio of 16-OH over 2-OH oestrogen metabolites. The resulting reduction in oestrogen load may favourably influence Sertoli cell function.

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