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Fertility – new insights

The following article is provided by the experts at Cell Logic, home of Nutrigenomics in Australia. High grade nutrigenomic supplements are available at True Medicine.  Contact the clinic on 07 – 5530 1863 for an appointment.


It is well-established that infertility in both males and females has been gradually increasing over several decades, with one couple in every six affected  – and many requiring assisted reproductive technology in order to become parents.[1]

The causes of infertility are not well-understood but it is known that many factors are involved.  In this article, we focus on the upstream biochemical factors identified as major contributors to infertility together with therapeutic options.


Cellular Defences in Fertility

It is becoming increasingly apparent that deficits in the inbuilt cellular mechanisms protecting us against environmental and metabolic stresses significantly contribute to infertility. Protective mechanisms become even less efficient as we age, a factor shown to impact the normal development of both the ova and the sperm.  This is especially true for modern couples delaying pregnancy-planning by a decade when compared with the generation before them.  Even with younger couples, one or both partners may be unaware that their cellular defences are compromised and that an oxidative burden impacts their health.

The newer science of Nutrigenomics has uncovered ways to beneficially influence our endogenous cellular defence mechanisms.

How does Nutrigenomics enhance cellular defences?

Where 20th century nutritionists focused largely on micronutrients to effect changes in biochemical pathways, 21st century Nutrition Science encompasses the added benefits of potent food-derived molecules capable of significantly impacting the simultaneous expression of the hundreds of genes associated with cellular defences. 

Nutrigenomics takes the practice of Clinical Nutrition to an entirely new level in the way it directly targets key biochemical pathways governed by genes that clinicians can now readily influence.

Redox imbalance in fertility

Evidence is mounting to support a strong link between uncontrolled oxidative stress and infertility. A 2019 study showed that low expression of the primary antioxidant enzyme Superoxide dismutase (SOD)** increases the likelihood of errors occurring as the female egg matures.[2]  The findings indicate that a major factor in female infertility is age-induced oxidative damage that results in the development of such dysfunctional ova.

Impact of oxidative stress on female fertility

Animal studies have also indicated that increased intracellular oxidative stress can potentially impair luteal formation and progesterone production.[3]  This Japanese research group suggested that SOD plays a crucial role in both the luteal function and the maintenance of fertility in females.

SOD on pregnancy rates of women undergoing intrauterine insemination

Many couples now rely on multiple rounds of assisted reproductive technology to achieve a pregnancy, a situation which makes it imperative that the woman’s redox environment is not hostile to the fertilisation process.

A 2017 clinical trial used a combination of melon-derived SOD and gliadin to increase cellular SOD activity.[4]  The purpose of the study was to determine whether there was any increase in pregnancy rates in women undergoing intrauterine insemination. The SOD/gliadin complex was shown to provide better ovarian stimulation response and increased pregnancy rates in these patients.

These outcomes showed that when SOD is upregulated nutrigenomically, there are measurable benefits to conception and in achieving pregnancy.

The impact of SOD on Oocytes

The relationship between SOD and the function of ova was demonstrated in a 2004 trial where higher SOD activity in oocytes resulted in good fertilization rates, more likely to result in a healthy pregnancy.[5]

SOD and the Sperm

Men with lower sperm quality are known to exhibit lower SOD activity, a factor sometimes linked to environmental stressors increasing the levels of  reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the body.[6]

Another study confirmed that the activity of SOD in the seminal plasma of men with reproductive disorders was lower compared with fertile men.[7]  In some men carrying SOD gene polymorphisms, sperm concentration and quality can both be adversely affected.[8]  Nutrigenomic upregulation of SOD and the other primary antioxidant enzymes may assist in these cases. 

An animal study concluded that the possible protective effects of SOD on sperm parameters are that it preserves the antioxidant and intracellular enzymes.[9]

‘Old’ Science and Infertility

Twentieth century Nutrition Science assumed that oxidative stress could be countered by direct-acting antioxidant vitamins.  Many large-scale clinical trials have not been able to demonstrate a protective benefit of the antioxidant vitamins A, E, C and beta-carotene in preventing chronic disease and in some studies both vitamin E and beta-carotene exacerbated lung cancer in smokers and cardiovascular disease.

Although it may seem intuitive to use antioxidant vitamins to address the redox imbalances associated with infertility, 21st century science indicates otherwise and a recent review of studies using antioxidants concluded that there were too few studies and that those available showed that the supplements probably made no difference, although there was some evidence for benefit in males.[10]

 

When comparing the ability of the direct-acting antioxidant vitamins with the endogenous (those made by our body) antioxidant enzymes in quenching radical species, the differences are obvious.  An antioxidant enzyme such as SOD can quench literally millions of ROS per second, whereas an antioxidant vitamin can quench just one or a few ROS per molecule. 

Other Lessons from Nutrigenomics

Nutrigenomics has taught us something else of great importance.  Human cells activate their own defences in response to a stressor of some kind; that stressor could be a toxin, a free radical species, UV radiation or similar.  This makes sense because cells make protective molecules as they need them.  Imagine what might happen when a large dose of antioxidant vitamins floods the cells; this sudden antioxidant effect can mask the signals the cells need to activate the production of antioxidant enzyme like SOD.[11]  

Better understanding of how cells use stress signals to activate their defences makes it very clear why the ‘old’ science led to so many failed antioxidant trials.

New Science Brings New Hope

The nutrigenomic compound* that combines SOD and gliadin is a potent activator of the three primary antioxidant enzymes, SOD, Glutathione peroxidase (GPx) and Catalase (Cat). This patented combination activates cellular synthesis of SOD, GPx and Cat. 

The nutrigenomic compound has been extensively studied to show that the specific combination of SOD/gliadin is capable of approximately doubling the activity of the three enzymes over a 28-day period.  These effects have been confirmed in clinical trials, including a trial showing significant benefit in reducing atherosclerosis with this single intervention.[12]

Following Nature’s lead in dealing with the stressors that threaten healthy reproductive function seems an obvious approach in helping couples dealing with the heartbreak of infertility.  The new science of Nutrigenomics heralds that change.

References:

[1] Brugo-Olmedo S, Chillik C, Kopelman S. Definition and causes of infertility. Reprod Biomed Online. 2001;2(1):41-53. 

[2] Adrienne T. et al. Increased levels of superoxide dismutase suppress meiotic segregation errors in aging oocytes Chromosoma (2019) 128:215–222

[3] Yoshihiro Noda et al. Copper/Zinc Superoxide Dismutase Insufficiency Impairs Progesterone Secretion and Fertility in Female Mice  Biology of Reproduction, Volume 86, Issue 1, 1 January 2012

[4] Surasandi D., Anantasika A.A.N.* The role of superoxide dismutase on pregnancy rates of women undergoing intrauterine insemination Bali Medical Journal (Bali Med J) 2017, Volume 6, Number 1: 114-120

[5] Kably Ambe A et al. Correlation between follicle levels of superoxide dismutase and oocyte quality, fertilization rates and embryo development Ginecologia y Obstetricia de Mexico: 2004. Jul;72:335-344.

[6] Hosen MB, et al. Oxidative stress induced sperm DNA damage, a possible reason for male infertility. Iran J Reprod Med. 2015;13(9):525-

[7] Artur Wdowiak  et al.  Decreased activity of superoxide dismutase in the seminal plasma of infertile men correlates with increased sperm deoxyribonucleic acid fragmentation during the first hours after sperm donation American College of Andrology July 2015

[8]  Lifeng Yan et al. Seminal superoxide dismutase activity and its relationship with semen quality and SOD gene polymorphism J Assist Reprod Genet. 2014 May; 31(5): 549–554

[9] P. Perumal Effect of Superoxide Dismutase on Semen Parameters and Antioxidant Enzyme Activities of Liquid Stored (5°C) Mithun (Bos frontalis) Semen Journal of Animals / 2014

[10] Showell MG, Brown J, Clarke J, Hart RJ. Antioxidants for female subfertility. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 Aug 5;(8)

[11]      Michael Ristow et al. Antioxidants prevent health-promoting effects of physical exercise in humans Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2009 May 26

[12]     Vouldoukis I et al. Supplementation with Gliadin-combined Plant Superoxide Dismutase  extract Promotes Antioxidant Defences and Protects Against Oxidative Stress. Phytother. Res. 18, 957–962 (2004)


Comments:

*    Nutrigenomic product is only availble from specially trained and accredited G.E.M.M. Practitioners.

**  It must be stressed that only quality, TGA-approved nutrigenomic products should be used.  NEVER purchase inferior quality products, that may be marketed well and making claims, over the internet or through MLM companies.  Always consult a qualified Naturopath or health practitioner – NEVER self prescribe.