Building Your Antioxidant Powerhouse and Why It Matters
The lowdown on antioxidants, what they are, why they matter and how they help your egg health.
What are Antioxidants?
Antioxidants are molecules that fight free radicals in your body and ensure the levels of free radicals are kept in check. These free radicals are constantly being formed in our bodies and, without antioxidants, they would quickly cause us serious harm.
When this balance is out of whack and free radicals outnumber antioxidants, our bodies enter a state of ‘Oxidative Stress’. Levels of oxidative stress increase as we age wreaking havoc on the health of our eggs. It’s our number one enemy when it comes to protecting the health of our egg reserve. The antioxidant defence systems in our eggs that exist to keep this balance in check also decrease with age. Sigh.
The quality and health of an egg (and therefore the health of the resulting embryo) is heavily influenced by the level of antioxidants available in the body to protect against the effect of oxidative stress. Antioxidants are even more important for those suffering from PCOS. Sufferers have a higher amount of oxidative stress and decline in antioxidant activity.
Scientific research is clear that eggs and embryos from older women, and women with fertility problems, have reduced antioxidant defence systems and are more sensitive to oxidative damage. This oxidative damage is believed to damage mitochondria, compromising energy production and egg quality. But - antioxidants can prevent some of this damage with the net effect of improving fertility.
Rocket Fuel For Your Eggs
Not surprisingly, your eggs need to be fuelled correctly so they can copy and eject the correct number of chromosomes once ovulated. Mitochondria are what make up the energy structures within our eggs, they’re also found in every cell in the body and act as these miniature powerhouses of fuel that provide the energy our mitochondria can use in the form of ATP.
Eggs love ATP. It’s their rocket fuel of choice and each egg has 15,000 mitochondria, over 10 times more than any other cell in the body. Our eggs need a whole lot of ATP to be able to do their job. As we age, our mitochondria become damaged and aren’t as able to produce the energy we need and are further damaged by oxidative stress, We now know the follicle cells surrounding an egg also contain mitochondria and supply the egg with even more ATP.
Mitochondria are particularly sensitive to oxidative stress and release even more oxidants when damaged causing a vicious cycle resulting in more damage and more free radicals. Oxidative stress to mitochondria reduces their ability to make ATP and it is now thought to be one of the major ways that ageing impacts egg quality.
What’s more, this doesn’t just apply to older eggs but also applies to cases of unexplained infertility too. In one study, 70% of women with unexplained premature ovarian failure had elevated oxidation levels.
A recent study found that women with higher total antioxidant levels during IVF cycles have a greater chance of becoming pregnant. Even more recent is a large study of women undergoing IVF treatment that concluded the use of antioxidant supplements was associated with a shorter time to pregnancy.
Research remains ongoing and OVUM will be funding more of it, but so far all indications point to antioxidants being key to protecting your eggs and improving fertility.
So, which antioxidants can help combat these damaging effects?
Vitamins, amino acids and minerals are long known for their effective antioxidant properties.
Little old Vitamin C, who’d have thought this everyday vitamin could be so important for fertility? Your ovarian follicles are packed with it and there is countless research backing up its use to prevent age-related decline in ovarian function. The power of Vitamin C for fertility support is only now becoming fully understood, research remains ongoing and we’ll continue to help fund those studying it.
In a recent study of women of a healthy weight and women under the age of 35. both had a shorter time to pregnancy when supplementing with Vitamin C. For those who are overweight (using the NHS BMI index) and over 35, it is likely higher doses of Vitamin C are needed. OVUM uses a high dose of the highest possible quality of Vitamin C. We’ve said before and we’ll say it again - it is the form of vitamin and its dose which is key when you’re supplementing for egg health. The wrong, low dose won’t do you any harm but it likewise won’t do anything to help either.
Vitamin C also helps increase the level of progesterone production in the body, which is directly linked to improving uterine health and its thickness. For women who have a luteal phase defect, increased Vitamin C appears to promote fertility. By reducing the number of free radicals in our bodies, Vitamin C improves ovarian function.
Vitamin C also plays an important role in the regulation of your cycle and ovarian function, specifically when taken in the form of ascorbic acid. Recent studies have shown the ovary increases its intake of ascorbic acid just before ovulation allowing it to facilitate proper ovulation. We also know high levels of ascorbic acid have been found in the corpus luteum.
It has been shown in one study that Vitamin C can improve hormone levels and increases fertility in those with a luteal phase defect.
This is a long-known powerful antioxidant and preliminary research indicates it could have a beneficial effect on egg quality, but only in the right dose. Experts now believe it may compensate for the decline in antioxidants that naturally occurs as women age and we believe this is worth investigating.
Further research is needed and OVUM is soon to be funding new research into the benefits of Vitamin E on egg health.
The antioxidant properties of Alpha-Lipoic Acid are well established and so it may also benefit egg quality. It has also been found naturally in our mitochondria. an all-rounder - total antioxidant level in the bloodstream raises significantly and an increase in the activity of antioxidant enzymes.
Proven to improve fertility too as it helps egg maturation and embryo viability. Not only that, it recycles CoQ10 via Vitamins C and E back into their active antioxidant form helping that antioxidant powerhouse you’ve built continue on a loop. Now that’s incredible. Alpha-Lipoic Acid also increases levels of a critical antioxidant found in the body - ‘Glutathione’. This is an incredibly powerful antioxidant which becomes even more important for egg health as we age.
A recent UK survey revealed that more than 50% of the adult population have insufficient levels of vitamin D and 16% have a severe deficiency during winter and spring. Supplementation for those living in the U.K is recommended by the NHS for so many reasons, including bone health. For those trying to conceive, however, the latest studies focusing on fertility show a higher recommended dose is needed. OVUM includes this optimal dose of 100mcg per day.
So why is Vitamin D so important for those ttc?
Studies have shown the vital importance of vitamin D levels and fertility. In particular, a 2012 study followed 200 women undergoing IVF and those with the highest range of vitamin D levels had between two to four times the pregnancy rate of those with low rates of vitamin D. A 2018 IVF study showed a higher fertilisation and implantation rate in those with higher vitamin D levels.
Vitamin D is also thought to make the uterine lining more receptive to pregnancy as there are actual Vitamin D receptors in cells in the uterus and the ovaries.
Being deficient in Vitamin D can lead to the body producing less AMH and frustrate how oestrogen works in the body. Low vitamin D levels even appear to contribute to endometriosis and PCOS.
It’s important for helping prevent miscarriage. That was the finding of several clinical studies published in 2018 which reported that those who had adequate Vitamin D levels before they became pregnant had a significantly lower risk of miscarriage.
Knowing the majority of us are deficient in Vitamin D, supplementing with the correct dosage is so important for those ttc. As much as we’d love to absorb it in the form of glorious year-round sunshine, we’ll make do with it in pill form for now. All hail Vitamin D!
VITAMIN B6 & B12
Studies show that low levels of B6 mean you are less likely to become pregnant and more likely to miscarry when you do. Having adequate amounts in your body helps with the production of hormones that make the uterine lining stronger and increase the levels of progesterone which is crucial when ttc.
B6 plays an important role in maintaining and balancing the key hormones in your body that help you conceive. A deficiency in those can lead to an irregular menstrual cycle which can affect the chances of conceiving.
Researchers have found that high levels of B12 are associated with better embryo and egg quality, and it decreases homocysteine levels too. Thanks, B12!
The longest-running study of its kind analysing the use of multivitamins found that a higher intake of vitamins B12 and B6 was associated with a lower risk of ovulatory infertility. Some studies have linked low levels of B12 with infertility. Research also shows that having higher levels of B12 may enhance fertility in those undergoing infertility treatment.
Two punchy vitamins that we wouldn’t be without when trying to conceive.
Good old Zinc. Often forgotten about but it plays an important role in antioxidant defence systems and likely plays a role in maintaining egg quality too. It helps with fertility by regulating normal hormone function, cell division and ovulation. A large 2019 study established that lower levels of zinc in the blood were associated with a longer time to conception and as our bodies do not store Zinc it is vital to supplement daily with the optimal dose. You’ll find the correct dosage in your daily intake of OVUM.
Hormone imbalances can have a major impact on our fertility and our levels of oestrogen, testosterone and progesterone need to be optimal when trying to conceive. Zinc plays a big role in helping that happen.
Selenium is a trace element essential for many vital processes in our bodies. Its role in regulating thyroid function is essential for those ttc as even a mildly underachieve thyroid has been shown to suppress ovulation and increase the risk of miscarriage.
It plays a significant role in the correct functioning of our reproductive system too. Recent studies confirm that a selenium deficiency may lead to gestational complications, and miscarriages and is even damaging to the nervous and immune systems of the foetus.
Selenium can also promote healthy follicles in the ovaries, it protects against birth defects and miscarriages caused by DNA damage and oxidative stress too. OVUM wouldn’t be without it!
Now we lay the final brick in our antioxidant powerhouse. This amino acid boosts Glutathione levels even further which, as we know, is another crucial antioxidant found inside our cells and eggs.
Recent randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies found that it restores ovulation, improves egg and embryo quality, increases the chance of pregnancy and reduces miscarriage rates. It also improves egg quality and fertility more generally too, by acting as an antioxidant and supporting detoxification to counteract the effects of ageing and oxidative stress on egg quality.
It has also been shown to reduce levels of the toxin Homocysteine in ovarian follicles. Homocysteine is so damaging for developing eggs and damages mitochondria. One of the main ways Methylfolate boosts fertility is by detoxifying homocysteine. Winner, winner.
The Takeaways - Which Antioxidants really matter when ttc?
We can’t ignore the overwhelming research favouring antioxidant supplementation. They protect us against oxidative stress and mean we can continuously keep free radicals in check. Modern lifestyles mean oxidative stress and damage are our new norm. Think of these as your scientifically backed and proven supplements that provide the ultimate defence system for your eggs.
Oxidative stress remains the enemy and is known to cause ovarian ageing. Luckily for us, there is now a huge amount we can do to prevent oxidative damage to eggs. Here at OVUM, we live by the mantra “control the controllables” when it comes to your fertility, so much sits outside of our control so we prefer to focus on the science and do everything we can to shorten your time to pregnancy. Building your antioxidant powerhouse is an essential part of that.
Based on the latest scientific research, OVUM contains all of the proven antioxidants required to protect your eggs and in the exact high dosages and types recommended by the research. So you can rest easy knowing you’re doing everything possible to protect your eggs.
Interested in reading the science behind OVUM? You can access a detailed list of the scientific studies behind OVUM here.