As a powerful antioxidant, vitamin E plays an important role in fertility by protecting cell membranes from oxidative damage, which means it can protect the cells of your body from harm by neutralizing damage-causing free radicals, and studies have shown that it helps to fight diseases, such as heart disease and cancer. It also alleviates respiratory problems, eases symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, and is a vital part of normal immune function. Vitamin E may also prevent diabetes-related damage to eyes, lessen UV damage to skin, and fight cataracts. It also has many important roles in relation to fertility including being an important regulator of sex hormones in both men and women.
Vitamin E is found in a wide variety of foods. The very best sources are plant oils, such as soya, corn and olive oil. Other good food sources for vitamin E, which should be included into a healthy balanced diet, include sunflower seeds, apricots, eggs, green leafy vegetables, sardines, olives, broccoli, spinach, nuts, avocados and papaya.
Vitamin E was linked to fertility by the ancient Greeks. The most active form of vitamin E is alpha-tocopherol, whose name originates from the Greek words tokos which means ‘offspring’ and phero which means ‘to bear’. Thus tocopherol means to ‘bear children’.
Vitamin E is thought to improve sperm quality and motility in men. It has also shown itself to be particularly beneficial when supplemented alongside selenium. Men going for IVF treatment with their partners have been given vitamin E, and fertilisation rates have, as a result, increased from 19 to 29 percent. It has been suggested that the antioxidant activity of vitamin E might make the sperm more fertile.
In women, vitamin E may help regulate the production of cervical mucus, which is important for conception, due to the importance of its ability to keep sperm alive for several days. A study published by Fertility and Sterility in April, 2010, showed that vitamin E supplementation may aid fertility by increasing the thickness of the uterine lining in women with uterine linings of less than 8mm. It is also important during gestation for the developing foetus and has been shown to help prevent premature rupture of the membranes (amniotic sac) in pregnancy. It appears that vitamin E may increase the quality of the amniotic sac.
Vitamin E has been shown to improve insulin action by improving insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance, which may be of help to those with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) or diabetes. Please check with your GP before supplementing anything if you are diabetic. It is important to ensure that blood sugar levels are balanced if you are trying to conceive.
If you would like to read more about vitamin E and its effect on fertility …
Keskes-Ammar, L, Feki-Chakroun, N, Rebai, T, Sahnoun, Z, Ghozzi, H,Hammami, S, Zghal, K Fki, H, Damak, J and Bahloul A (2003). Sperm oxidative stress and the effect of an oral vitamin E and selenium supplement on semen quality in infertile men. Systems Biology in Reproductive Medicine 49:2 pp 83-94.
Takasaki A, Tamura H, Miwa I, Taketani T, Shimamura K, Sugino N (April 2010). Endometrial growth and uterine blood flow: a pilot study for improving endometrial thickness in patients with a thin endometrium. Fertil. Steril. 93 (6): pp1851–8.