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Glutathione (GSH) and Male Infertility

Improving Sperm Quality and Morphology

Copyright © 2002 1Whey2Health
Reproduction Prohibited

Is pollution stealing your future?

Whey are anti-oxidants important for sperm quality?

Why is glutathione important for sperm quality and male fertility?

How can glutathione help in the treatment of male infertility?

References on glutathione and male infertility

Is Pollution Stealing Your Future?

In 1992, E. Carlsen et al. reported that sperm counts have dropped by half in the last 50 years while semen volume is 20 percent less (1).

A recent report from researchers in Aberdeen presented preliminary data that suggests the sperm concentration of the men seen in their clinic had declined by 29% over the past 14 years. (2)

Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and endocrine-disrupting chemicals from normal, everyday plastics are known to cause reproductive damage, as documented in the book "Our Stolen Future."

Men who are exposed to high levels of lead may be at increased risk of becoming infertile as studies have shown that higher lead levels interfere with the ability of the sperm to bind to the egg and with its ability to fertilise the egg. (3)

Exposure to the common industrial chemical, trichloroethylene (TCE), commonly found in adhesives, lubricants, paints, varnishes, paint strippers, pesticides, spot removers and rug cleaning fluids, has been shown to adversely affect the normal development of sperm and cause infertility.(4)

Damage in sperm due to exposure to common chemicals like alcohol, pesticides in food, has been linked to lowered intelligence and behavioral disorders in children. (5)

Lifestyle risk factors that decrease sperm quality include cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, chronic stress, and nutritional deficiencies. You would also want to rule out congenital factors, and health conditions like prostatitis and diabetes that can affect sperm production.

Other than changing your lifestyle and switching to organic foods, there's not a lot you can do to reduce your exposure to persistent environmental toxins. There is, however, a lot you can do to prevent and repair the damage they cause to your body, through better lifestyle and nutrition.

A number of nutritional therapies have been shown to improve sperm counts and sperm motility, including carnitine, arginine, zinc, selenium, and vitamin B-12. Antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin E, glutathione, and coenzyme Q10, have also proven beneficial in treating male infertility. (6)

Studies show that anti-oxidant supplementation - glutathione in particular, can improve sperm quality, and possibly increase your chances of conceiving.

If you smoke, drink, are exposed to stress, chemicals, radiation, pesticides or take medication or drugs that may affect fertility (like Sulfasalazine, Ketoconazole, Azulfidine, Anabolic steroids, Marijuana), you will very likely require an anti-oxidant supplement to reverse some of the damage.

Why are Anti-oxidants Important for Sperm Quality?

Mammalian spermatozoa are coated by a membrane rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids. These fatty acids are extremely susceptible to oxidative damage by free radicals or Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) by a process called lipid peroxidation (LPO).

Lipid peroxidation damages the sperm cell membrane and is considered to be the key mechanism of this ROS-induced sperm damage leading to loss of motility, abnormal morphology and reduced capacity for sperm oocyte penetration and infertility. (7,8)

To protect sperm from this damage, the body depends on powerful antioxidant enzymes in the body such as superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase, and glutathione peroxidase/reductase (GPX/GRD). The GPX/GRD enzymes play a central role in the defence against oxidative damage in human sperm.(7)

Seminal plasma and spermatozoa possess several antioxidant enzymes, glutathione peroxidase, glutathione reductase, superoxide dismutase. (9)

It is now known that some amount of all the antioxidant enzymes, which may protect spermatozoa from oxidative attack, are also made by the epididymis during storage. (10)

Why is Glutathione important for Sperm Quality and Male Fertility?

A decrease in levels of reduced glutathione (GSH) during sperm production has been shown to cause disruption in the membrane integrity of spermatozoa as a consequence of increased oxidative stress.(11)

Intracellular glutathione levels of spermatozoa are shown to be decreased in certain populations of infertile men.(12)

At the 94th Annual Meeting of the American Urological Association, andrologists presented strong clinical evidence that men diagnosed with infertility have high levels of oxidative stress that may impair the quality of their sperm.(13,14)

Compared with a control group, the infertile men in all groups had significantly higher levels of ROS and lower levels of total antioxidants. In some groups, higher levels of ROS were associated with lower sperm counts and defective sperm structure, while lower antioxidant levels correlated with reduced sperm movement.

Their results supported previous evidence showing that oxidative stress can decrease a sperm's life span, its motility, and its ability to penetrate the oocyst, or egg cell. Up to 40% of men with male infertility without a known cause have higher levels of free radical activity in their bodies. (13)

Because men with high levels of ROS have a seven-fold lower likelihood of inducing a pregnancy than men with lower levels, researchers recommend that treatment for infertile men should include strategies to reduce oxidative stress and improve sperm quality.

How can Glutathione help in the Treatment of Male Infertility?

Glutathione is not only vital to sperm antioxidant defenses, but selenium and glutathione are essential to the formation of phospholipid hydroperoxide glutathione peroxidase - an enzyme present in spermatids which becomes a structural protein in the mid-piece of mature spermatozoa. Deficiencies of either substance can lead to instability of the mid-piece, resulting in defective motility. (15,16)

Scavengers, such as glutathione can be used to treat these cases as they can restore the physiological constitution of poly-unsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) in the cell membrane. (17, 18)

In a double-blind cross-over study of 20 infertile men, treatment with glutathione led to a statistically significant improvement of the sperm quality. The study concerned men in whom the sperm quality was poor due to unilateral varicocele or germ-free genital tract inflammation - two conditions in which ROS or other toxic compounds are indicated as causative factors. (19, 20)

Treatment with glutathione was found to have a statistically significantly positive effect on, among other things, sperm motility (in particular forward motility) and on sperm morphology. The findings of these studies indicate that glutathione therapy could represent a possible therapeutical tool in cases where ROS or exposure to toxins is the probable cause of male infertility. (21)

References in Glutathione and Male Infertility
  1. BMJ, 1992, volume 305
  2. UK study shows 29% drop in sperm concentration
    5th January 2004; Press release from the British Fertility Society
  3. Lead linked to male infertility
    6 February, 2003; BBC News, Health
  4. Common Industrial Chemical Now Linked To Male Infertility; Chemical Adversely Affects The Normal Development Of Sperm
    2003-03-07; Science Daily
  5. Damaged Sperm & Common Chemical Exposure: Links to Links to Learning Disabilities, ADD and Behavior Disorders by Richard W. Pressinger
  6. Male infertility: nutritional and environmental considerations
    Sinclair S. [Altern Med Rev 2000 Feb;5(1):28-38] Green Valley Health, Hagerstown, MD 21742, USA.
  7. Biochemistry of the induction and prevention of lipoperoxidative damage in human spermatozoa
    Storey BT. [Mol Hum Reprod 1997 Mar;3(3):203-13]
  8. Oxidative stress and role of antioxidants in normal and abnormal sperm function
    Suresh C. Sikka, Ph.D., HCLD [Frontiers in Bioscience 1, e78-86, August 1,1996]
  9. Studies on the origin of redox enzymes in seminal plasma and their relationship with results of in-vitro fertilization
    Yeung CH, Cooper TG, De Geyter M, De Geyter C, Rolf C, Kamischke A, Nieschlag E.
    Mol Hum Reprod. 1998 Sep;4(9):835-9.
  10. Seminal plasma reduces exogenous oxidative damage to human sperm, determined by the measurement of DNA strand breaks and lipid peroxidation
    Potts RJ, Notarianni LJ, Jefferies TM. Mutat Res. 2000 Feb 14;447(2):249-56.
  11. Status of vitamin E and reduced glutathione in semen of oligozoospermic and azoospermic patients
    A. Bhardwaj, A. Verma, S. Majumdar, K. L. Khanduja [Asian J Androl 2000 Sep; 2: 225-228]
  12. Glutathione in spermatozoa and seminal plasma of infertile men
    Ochsendorf FR, Buhl R, Bastlein A, Beschmann H. [Hum Reprod 1998 Feb;13(2):353-9]
  13. Relationship between oxidative stress, semen characteristics, and clincial diagnosis in men undergoing infertility investigation
    Pasqualotto FF, Sharma RK, Nelson DR, Thomas AJ Jr, Agarwal A.
    [Fertil Steril 2000;73:459-64]
  14. Oxidative stress in normospermic men undergoing infertility evaluation.
    Pasqualotto FF, Sharma RK, Kobayashi H, Nelson DR, Thomas AJ Jr, Agarwal A. [J Androl. 2001 Mar-Apr;22(2):316-22]
  15. Dual function of the selenoprotein PHGPx during sperm maturation
    Ursini F, Heim S, Kiess M, et al.
    Science 1999;285:1393-1396.
  16. Selenium and fertility in animals and man ­ a review
    Hansen JC, Deguchi Y.
    Acta Vet Scand 1996;37:19-30.
  17. Lipoperoxidation damage of spermatozoa polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA): scavenger mechanisms and possible scavenger therapies
    Lenzi A, Gandini L, Picardo M, Tramer F, Sandri G, Panfili E. [Front Biosci 2000 Jan 1;5:E1-E15]
  18. Polyunsaturated fatty acids of germ cell membranes, glutathione and blutathione-dependent enzyme-PHGPx: from basic to clinic
    Lenzi A, Gandini L, Lombardo F, Picardo M, Maresca V, Panfili E, Tramer F, Boitani C, Dondero F. [Contraception 2002 Apr;65(4):301-4]
  19. Glutathione treatment of dyspermia: effect on the lipoperoxidation process
    Lenzi A, Picardo M, Gandini L, Lombardo F, Terminali O, Passi S, Dondero F. [Hum Reprod 1994 Nov;9(11):2044-50] Laboratory of Seminology and Immunology of Human Reproduction, University of Rome La Sapienza, Italy.
  20. Glutathione therapy for male infertility
    Lenzi A, Lombardo F, Gandini L, Culasso F, Dondero F. [Arch Androl 1992 Jul-Aug;29(1):65-8]
  21. Placebo-controlled, double-blind, cross-over trial of glutathione therapy in male infertility
    Lenzi A, Culasso F, Gandini L, Lombardo F, Dondero F. [Hum Reprod 1993 Oct;8(10):1657-62

More References:

Environmental Causes of Infertility
Information provided by Chem-tox.com

Glutathione as a Treatment for Male Infertility (PDF)
D. Stewart Irvine [Reviews of Reproduction (1996) 1, 612]

Relative impact of oxidative stress on male reproductive function
Sikka SC. [Curr Med Chem. 2001 Jun;8(7):851-62.] Department of Urology, Tulane University School of Medicine, New Orleans, Louisiana 70112-2699, USA.

A rationale for glutathione therapy
Lenzi A, Gandini L, Picardo M. [Hum Reprod. 1998 Jun;13(6):1419-22.] Department of Medical Pathophysiology, University of Rome La Sapienza, Italy.

Visual of sperm by www.PDImages.com



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