Could scarce nutrient help infertile couples?
A new study links thyroid disorders to female infertility. At the same time, it is known that selenium, an essential micronutrient, is required for normal functioning of the thyroid gland. Modern diets are depleted of selenium and the question is: Could selenium supplements be a good place to begin for infertile couples before embarking on expensive IVF therapy?
Most people believe, and with good reason, that infertility is mainly a result of poor sperm quality but a British study1 that was published recently in the science journal The Obstetrician & Gynaecologist points to an entirely different explanation: Disorders of the female thyroid gland.
According to the researchers who carried out the study, thyroid abnormalities may have a negative effect on reproductive health and result in lower chances of conception, increased risk for miscarriage, and other types of negative impact on pregnancy and neonatal outcome. Apparently, the thyroid gland produces hormones that play a key role in growth and development and changes in thyroid function may have a major impact on reproductive biology before, during, and after conception.
It is widely accepted that selenium, an essential micronutrient in our diet, is required for proper functioning of the thyroid gland. Many people in Western Europe are borderline deficient in this nutrient for various reasons and that could easily interfere with certain biological functions. The question is, could selenium supplements be worth considering as first-line therapy for infertile couples before introducing costly IVF (in vitro fertilization) therapy? It may be worth looking into, simply because it is a safe, natural, and biologically essential nutrient that is needed for normal human and animal health.
Used in livestock
The role of selenium has been known for decades among farmers and livestock handlers who are fully aware that selenium supplementation of the animals is vital to ensure good reproductive health. For some reason, this knowledge has not been introduced in human medicine, even though there are several studies that point to a clear link between selenium status and pregnancy outcome. In a 1998 study2 conducted by the Scottish scientist, Allan MacPherson, it was seen that selenium supplements helped infertile men by reducing the number of misshapen sperm cells, a problem that is known to cause low sperm motility and poor reproduction. Selenium supports certain selenoproteins that prevent sperm cell DNA mutation, which is causes these deformed sperm cells.
A good place to begin
Considering that selenium is a nutrient which is required for normal functioning of 25-30 different selenoproteins that control our immune system, growth and development, cellular DNA protection, and a number of other vital functions, there is every good reason to make sure to get enough of this nutrient. Since available research links low selenium to infertility issues in both men and women, this would be a good place to begin before setting the stage for more expensive infertility therapies.
1) The Obstetrician & Gynaecologist 23 JAN 2015, DOI: 10.1111/tog.12161
2) British Journal of Urology 1998 Jul;82(1):76-80.
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