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Can vitamins and traditional Chinese medicine improve male infertility?

In a nutshell

This study looked at the effect of vitamins and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) on male infertility. It found that vitamins plus TCM improved sperm quality and pregnancy rates more than vitamins alone.

Some background

Worldwide, male infertility is involved in half of the infertility cases. Sperm are vulnerable to oxidation, which refers to chemical changes due to reactive molecules. Smoking, pollution, deep-fried foods, and other environmental stressors can increase oxidation. Oxidation can damage fats in the sperm's membrane and tail, which can prevent it from moving normally. Oxidation can also damage sperm’s DNA (genetic material), which can increase the risk of abnormal embryos and miscarriage.

Antioxidants are molecules that can prevent oxidation. Antioxidants can be found in fruits and vegetables, especially those which are brightly colored. Vitamins E and C are antioxidants that can be given as supplements. Antioxidants may improve male infertility.

TCM is a traditional herbal healing method. TCM can affect the endocrine system, which controls hormones and is involved in fertility. TCM has been used to improve sperm quality. It is unclear whether TCM plus vitamins can be used to improve male fertility.

Methods & findings

This study used results from 14 trials with 1488 men with infertility. 725 men used vitamin C and/or E alone (controls). 763 men used both vitamins and TCM.

10 studies looked at pregnancy rates. Men who used TCM and vitamins were 3.70 times more likely than controls to have their partner become pregnant.

12 trials looked at the effect of TCM on sperm concentration and motility (ability to move). There was a significantly increased sperm concentration, motility and sperm life in men taking TCM and vitamins compared to those taking vitamins alone.

Methods & findings
The bottom line

This study found that TCM plus vitamins improve pregnancy rates and sperm parameters more than antioxidant vitamins alone.

The fine print

The 14 trials analyzed in this study used different TCM herbs and different doses of vitamins C and/or E. This made combining the trials more difficult.

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Published By: Andrology
Date: Nov 11, 2020
Original Title: Vitamins combined with traditional Chinese medicine for male infertility: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

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