By T.M. Bernard
It’s a sexual health conundrum for consumers of antioxidant-rich foods, drinks and facial products: What’s good for your skin may be scrambling your eggs. If babies are in your future, pay attention to the recent health news about popular ingredients in your beverages and cosmetics.
“Common antioxidants, including vitamins C and E, neutralize the “reactive oxygen species” molecules our bodies sometimes overproduce in reaction to stress. It seems only logical to keep these reactive oxygen molecules at bay, because an overabundance of them leads to inflammation and cell damage.
However, when Dekel and her research team in the Biological Regulation Department applied antioxidants to the ovaries of female mice, they discovered that significantly fewer eggs were released from the ovarian follicles in comparison to the amount released by untreated ovaries.
Was it possible, they wondered, that the process of ovulation might actually rely on “harmful” reactive oxygen species molecules?”
Dekel and her associates decided to test this hypothesis in female mice. They treated one group of female mice with luteinizing hormone (LH), a hormone released by the pituitary gland that is necessary for ovulation to occur, and another group with hydrogen peroxide, H2O2, a reactive oxygen species. “…H2O2 fully mimicked the effect of LH, bringing about an extensive mucification/expansion of the follicle-enclosed cumulus–oocyte complexes,” wrote the researchers in the abstract published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
In other words, hydrogen peroxide induced ovulation in the mice as effectively as the naturally occurring hormone, suggesting that the oxidative process is necessary for healthy fertility.
One process – inflammation – and two outcomes: aging and ovulation. According to Israel 21c, Dekel and her team plan to “investigate the exact mechanics of antioxidants in relation to ovulation and to examine their effect on mice when administered in either food or drink. In addition, they plan to collect human data on the possible link between antioxidant supplements and difficulty conceiving.”
Alternatives to Birth Control?
Future research may also include the application of antioxidants as contraception. “On the one hand, these findings could prove useful to women who are having trouble getting pregnant,” said Dekel. “On the other, further studies might show that certain antioxidants might be effective means of birth control that could be safer than today’s hormone-based [pregnancy] prevention.”
Eco-sexuality author and advocate, Stefanie Iris Weiss, has noted many of those safety concerns in her 2010 publication, Eco-Sex: Go Green Between the Sheets and Make your Love Life Sustainable .
Challenges from the overuse of hormones in humans and agriculture include the proliferation of these substances in our waterways, the feminization of males in certain animal species, and the precocious puberty in children, and enlarged breast size among women.