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Radical Birth ControlYou don’t have to be a health food nut to know antioxidants are big news. We seem to hear every other week about yet another study supporting antioxidant’s powerful anti-aging, anti-cancer effects.

But I was surprised by the results of a new study. It suggests, at least in lab mice, that antioxidants could disrupt a woman’s ovulation and ability to get pregnant.

When a woman ovulates, the brain releases a hormone signaling the follicles in her ovaries to start maturing eggs. The follicles are where eggs are stored while they grow. As the eggs mature, they release estrogen which, when built up, brings on a big surge of luteinizing hormone that signals follicles to release an egg.

Researchers in the study wanted to see if antioxidants disrupted this process. So, they applied antioxidants to the ovaries of female mice and compared them to untreated mice. The follicles of the antioxidant treated mice released far fewer eggs.

To further test antioxidants’ effect on ovulation, researchers asked whether luteinizing hormone induced the production of reactive oxygen species, otherwise known as free radicals. Since free radicals are purported disease promoters, more people are taking antioxidants to neutralize them.

So, if women trying to get pregnant are taking antioxidants, could the chemical be neutralizing the free radicals women need to conceive?  To help answer this question, researchers treated one group of mice with luteinizing hormone and another group with hydrogen peroxide, a free radical.

The test showed hydrogen peroxide mimicked the effect of the ovulation-inducing hormone. This confirms first, that luteinizing hormone induces production of free radicals, and second, at least in mice, that free radicals are needed for ovulation to take place.

It’s a fascinating study and raises interesting questions about antioxidants’ potential as a birth control and if a link is proven, could provide vital information for women trying to conceive.

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