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Antioxidants Linked To Fertility Problems In Female Mice

January 10, 2011: 11:24 AM EST

Antioxidants like vitamins C and E have an unexpected negative side effect, according to Israeli researchers: they may cause fertility problems in females. Antioxidant supplements are widely available over the counter and are added to food, drink, and face cream, despite the fact that little is known about how they act in the body. Antioxidants eliminate cell-damaging molecules called reactive oxygen species produced naturally in the body and in large amounts at times of stress. But when researchers applied antioxidants to the ovaries of female mice, ovulation levels dropped dramatically: very few eggs were released from the ovaries to reach the site of fertilization, compared to those in untreated ovaries. The reason for the phenomenon? Ovulation relies on the “harmful” substances destroyed by antioxidants: reactive oxygen species.

Ketty Shkolnika, et al., "Reactive oxygen species are indispensable in ovulation", Proceedings of the National Academy Of Science, January 10, 2011, © National Academy of Sciences
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