Could a simple pill costing 30p a day be the answer to getting pregnant?
Health Article: Sophie Borland, 2011
A 30p multi-vitamin pill could more than double a woman's chance of having a baby, according to a study.
It found that 60 per cent of those taking the supplements while undergoing IVF became pregnant compared to just a quarter who did not take them. Researchers say the pills contain nutrients that may boost fertility such as vitamins C and E, zinc and selenium, that are often absent from our diets.
The study carried out at University College London involved 56 women aged 18 to 40, who had all tried unsuccessfully to fall pregnant using IVF for at least a year. Half were given a multi-nutrient pill to take every day and the other half given folic acid pills to take daily. The micronutrient pill also contained folic acid which prevents birth defects and has also been shown to help boost fertility.
The team found that 60 per cent of women taking the multi-nutrients fell pregnant, and did not miscarry in the first three months when it is most common. This compared to 25 per cent of women in the group taking folic acid who were still pregnant after three months.
How many diseases can selenium beat?
On Christmas Day 1996, a scientific study was published which demonstrated selenium's ability to halve deaths due to some cancers. Since then the focus of much scientific research, it is clear that selenium's health-giving properties are nothing short of remarkable.So, what is known about selenium's effects in the body, and how can it be used to enhance disease prevention? Selenium is what is known as a 'trace mineral' - a nutrient which is only required in very small amounts by the body. Despite the fact that we don't need much of it, the importance of selenium intake is no more starkly demonstrated than in the case of cancer.
At the heart of the cancer-causing process are destructive molecules called 'free radicals' ? by-products of the reactions which generate energy in the body. By damaging sensors on the surface of the cell or the DNA within it, they can trigger the development of cancerous cells. Another effect free radicals have is to suppress the body's immune system.
Fortunately for us, free radicals are controlled in the body by antioxidants. Selenium is known to have potent antioxidant activity, which in theory should give it cancer protective effects. However, selenium has another trick up its sleeve: it stimulates the immune system, and so appears to help the body kill off very early tumours.
Since the Seventies it has been noted that individuals with the lowest intakes of selenium have the highest risk of dying from cancer. However, the 1996 selenium study was the first research to look at whether or not taking selenium could reduce cancer risk.
After about four years it was found that the group taking selenium had half the risk of dying from cancer compared to those taking placebos. While selenium had no effect on skin cancer risk, it did bring about very significant reductions in the risk of cancers of the prostate, colon, lung, etc. However, anyone wanting to ensure an adequate intake of selenium would do well to consider supplementation. Selenium supplements, often combined with other antioxidants such as vitamins A, C and E, are widely available in health food stores. The dose of selenium usually recommended is 200 micrograms a day.