Empowering Fertility - Neutralizing Toxins With Diet May Impact Fertility

Neutralizing Toxins With Diet May Impact Fertility

By Paul Bergh, MD

A recent report in the Journal Metallomics, researches describe the important role of the trace element, selenium, in the production of healthy eggs leading to pregnancy. Selenium, a trace element, is an essential micronutrient that is found in protein-rich food including red meat, seafood, mushrooms and nuts. Brazilian nuts are the richest source of selenium with high levels also found, in descending order, kidney, tuna, crab and lobster.  Although toxic in large doses, it is essential  for numerous biological process, such as immune response, thyroid hormone production and metabolism, and as an antioxidant, helping to detoxify damaging chemicals in the cells. There are 25 known human genes that encode for proteins that incorporate selenium (selenoproteins). It is the antioxidant function of these selenoproteins that research found  to play a role in the development of reproductively competent eggs.

In the normal course of living, all cells generate metabolic by-products.  One of these by-products includes a class of substances called Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS). The cells have developed numerous strategies to neutralize or scavenge these ROS’s. Oxidative stress refers to the situation when these strategies fail and the cell cannot keep the level of ROS’s in check. This in turn leads to the damage of critical components of the cell and interferes with normal cellular function. Thus oxidative stress participates in the physiologic process of ageing and when the cell is overwhelmed, may eventually even trigger programed cell death (known as apoptosis).

Within the ovary, the functional unit of the growing egg, called the follicle, consists of the egg and its surrounding supporting cells (granulosa cells). As it turns out, steroid producing cells, such as these granulosa cells, produce ROS’s at a rate ten times greater than a normal cell. Each month, only one of many follicles that begin to mature each month is selected to ovulate. Using state of the art techniques, researches have demonstrated that selenium and selenoproteins are at found in markedly increased levels in large, healthy ovarian follicles. They also demonstrated that the gene expression of a specific selenoprotein (GPX1) was significantly higher in follicles that yielded a subsequent pregnancy. Researchers speculate that the selenoproteins play a critical role as antioxidants during the late stages of follicle development, helping to lead to a healthy environment for the developing egg. Previous reports have demonstrated a significant decrease in the expression of the GPX1 gene with dietary restriction of selenium.  While the researches postulate that it may be possible to enhance ovarian function by selenium supplementation, too much selenium is toxic and further work is still needed to sort out this out.


Ceko, M. J., Hummitzsch, K., Hatzirodos, N., Bonner, W. M., Aitken, J. B., Russell, D. L., Lane, M., Rodgers, R. J., and Harris, H. H. X-Ray fluorescence imaging and other analyses identify selenium and GPX1 as important in female reproductive function. Metallomics.  11-3-2014.

Empowering Fertility: An educational blog for patients & healthcare professionals that empowers individuals to take charge of their fertility. Visit us at http://empoweringfertility.com.



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