Study: Specific Antioxidant Plays Vital Role in Women’s Fertility

There could be any number of reasons that a woman suffer from infertility. Science now says that one of those possibilities could be linked to a lack of selenium, an essential trace antioxidant. Found in protein rich foods like red meat, seafood, and nuts, this nutrient is important for many biological functions, including thyroid hormone production, immune response, and detoxification of damaging chemicals in the body.

foods high in selenium

Previous studies have linked deficiency in this nutrient to male infertility. However, it was only recently that the University of Adelaide research revealed that it also plays a critical role in early stages of female fertility, aiding in the development of healthy ovarian follicles, which are responsible for the production of eggs in women.

“We’ve known for some time that the selenium is important to men’s fertility, but until now, no one has researched how this element could be involved in healthy reproduction in women,” Melanie Ceko, researcher on the study, told Science Daily. “Our findings are important because they show that selenium and selenoproteins are at elevated levels in large, healthy ovarian follicles. We suspect they play a critical role as an antioxidant during the late stages of follicle development, helping to lead to a healthy environment for the egg.”

Using the facilities at the Australian Synchotron in Victoria, the research team, led by Associate Professor Hugh Harris and Professor Ray Rodgers, was able to pinpoint where exactly selenium is located in the ovary. They then turned their attention to the selenoprotein GPX1.

“We found that gene expression of GPX1 was significantly higher—in some cases double—in cells that yielded pregnancy,” Ceko said.

She added that, while infertility is present in Western cultures, selenium deficiency generally isn’t a problem. However, people that are on restrictive diets that require them to avoid certain food groups, or that maybe consume foods that are grown on selenium-deficient soil, could be at risk.

“Infertility is a significant problem in our society,” she said. “Further research is needed to better understand how selenium levels could be optimized, helping to improve women’s chances at conceiving. Too much selenium can also be toxic, so it isn’t just a case of taking multiple supplements.”

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About the author


Kate Givans is a wife and a mother of five—four sons (one with autism) and a daughter. She’s an advocate for breastfeeding, women’s rights, against domestic violence, and equality for all. When not writing—be it creating her next romance novel or here on Growing Your Baby—Kate can be found discussing humanitarian issues, animal rights, eco-awareness, food, parenting, and her favorite books and shows on Twitter or Facebook. Laundry is the bane of her existence, but armed with a cup of coffee, she sometimes she gets it done.

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