The Fertility Center | Blog

Oxidative stress and male fertility

By Dr. Jesús Alberto Félix Atondo

We have previously mentioned on The Fertility Center blog that infertility (male and female) is multifactorial, and that there are many conditions that are related to it. After dozens of investigations, oxidative stress has been considered as one of the factors that influence infertility and we will tell you the conclusions below.


What is oxidative stress?

Virtually all living things need oxygen to live. Those that also use oxygen to obtain energy are liberators of reactive oxygen species (ROS). A group of molecules that contain oxygen with different degrees of chemical reactivity and that have an oxidizing capacity.

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Some andrological situations, environmental factors and chemical compounds that increase pro inflammatory cytokines and generate OS. In turn, this can disrupt the spermatogenic process.

Sperm are very susceptible to oxidative damage since the sperm membrane has a high content of polyunsaturated fatty acids. The low cytoplasm limits the content of antioxidant enzymes in the membrane, causing DNA fragmentation in the nuclear and mitochondrial genomes.

This results in protein damage, lipid destruction, cell death, and DNA damage that weakens the sperm´s fertilization potential.


What are the causes of oxidative stress?

Approximately 20% of the air we inhale in breathing is oxygen, and as we know, it is essential for all the cells of our body, where it arrives with the blood after passing from the lungs to the bloodstream.

Part of that oxygen is transformed into reactive cells, which have oxidative activity and are known as free radicals. Although it sounds like something negative, its existence is part of the balance of the organism of living species. Once they fulfill their function, they are eliminated by antioxidant substances. In this way, balance is restored in the body.

However, if antioxidants are not enough to counteract free radicals, their presence in cells increases and this produces oxidative stress, which is characterized by increased oxidative activity inside cells.

As we mentioned, this oxidation changes the structure and shape of cells, accelerating aging and cell death.


Consequences of oxidative stress

The consequence of free radicals is that they cause deterioration in tissues in general, favoring the appearance of pathologies ranging from mild to serious, such as acne, hair loss, premature aging of the skin, even cancer, cardiovascular diseases, neurological disorders and infertility.


How to counteract oxidative stress?

Eating foods rich in antioxidants is one of the main ways to combat oxidative stress. Blueberries, seaweed, broccoli, egg yolk, spinach, Swiss chard, cabbage, tomato, banana, parsley, orange, and celery are some foods that contain antioxidants.

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It is also recommended to avoid some environmental factors that are related to free radicals: excessive exposure to sunlight without protection, tobacco use (either actively or passively), environmental pollutants and exposure to toxic substances are the more related to oxidative stress.

In some cases, bacterial or viral infections, such as varicocele, can increase free radicals in the body and affect sperm quality.


Is there a way to measure oxidative stress?

The d-ROM (Reactive Oxygen Metabolites) test is used to measure hydroperoxides (ROOH) in blood plasma to determine the oxidation state in blood in Carratelli (U. Carr) units. The normal range is between 250 and 300 Carr U, while values above 300 Carr U indicate the presence of oxidative stress, or a possible alteration in the balance between pro-oxidant and antioxidant activity.

In addition to the d-ROM test, the PAT test (Plasma or Systemic Antioxidant Potential) can also be used. This measures the global antioxidant component of the blood plasma to defend itself against the aggression of free radicals. If the values are below 2000 U.Carr, it is probable that oxidative damage occurs in the cells and the organism tissues.

And it is also likely that there is some sperm damage that is causing male infertility.


Are there treatments for oxidative stress?

Antioxidant therapies and diets rich in antioxidants and omega 3 fatty acids can reduce organic functional impairment caused by oxidative stress (OS) excess. In addition, exercise is recommended to control body weight and sleep better, since they are also factors that influence both oxidative stress and other conditions, such as obesity.

And if none of these recommendations serves to achieve a pregnancy naturally due to irreversible damage to the sperm, fertility treatments can be recommended in order to achieve the dream of couples who yearn to be parents.

If after a year of having unprotected sex they still can’t get pregnant, couples can see fertility specialists to discuss the reasons and solutions to fulfill their dream of being parents.

At The Fertility Center we help couples create miracles. We offer you different ways to get pregnant: egg freezing, embryo freezing, IVF in Mexico, timed intercourse cycle, intrauterine insemination in Mexico and others. If you want to become an egg donor in Mexico contact us via WhatsApp or through our contact form to schedule your appointment. We will gladly assist you!

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Dr. Jesús Alberto Félix Atondo

Gynecology, Obstetrics and Biology of Human Reproduction Surgeon at the Autonomous University of Guadalajara, specialist Biologist of Human Reproduction by the Mexican Institute of Infertility.

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