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How minerals influence women’s fertility and menstrual health


In a recent review published in the journal Nutrients, researchers in Austria discuss the role of certain minerals in the female reproductive system.

Study: Minerals and the Menstrual Cycle: Impacts on Ovulation and Endometrial Health. Image Credit: Marko Aliaksandr / Shutterstock.comStudy: Minerals and the Menstrual Cycle: Impacts on Ovulation and Endometrial Health. Image Credit: Marko Aliaksandr / Shutterstock.com

Background

The function of minerals for female reproductive health, especially throughout menstruation, is a complicated area of research that emphasizes the link between diet and female fertility. Despite the emphasis on micronutrients for preventing reproductive diseases, there remains a lack of systematic evidence on the effect of minerals during the menstrual period on female fertilization pathways.

Although researchers have extensively investigated minerals related to male fertility, their involvement in women’s reproductive health has received less attention, with many studies overlooking the menstrual phase.

Overview of female reproductive regulation

Hormones are crucial in human reproduction, as they control various processes such as menstruation, ovulation, implantation, and gestation. Hormones also facilitate follicle maturation and ovulation, in addition to supporting the endometrium to provide ideal circumstances for a fertilized egg.

The ovaries are essential for female reproductive health, as they produce oocytes for fertilization and synthesize hormones such as estrogen and progesterone. During the follicular phase, increased gonadotropin hormone-releasing hormone (GnRH) production encourages the release of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). Comparatively, GnRH secretion suppresses as progesterone levels rise during the luteal phase.

Oxidative stress, which occurs when the body’s production of free radicals exceeds its ability to detoxify their detrimental effects, can damage cellular structures and potentially impact fertility. Iron excess, selenium deficiency, zinc shortage, insufficient magnesium intake, and copper imbalances indirectly affect female fertility.

Impact of mineral intake on female fertility

Zinc

Zinc is essential for hormone production, endometrial function, and fertility, as it regulates LH, FSH, and steroid production while protecting the oocyte from oxidative stress-related reactive oxygen species (ROS) damage.

Zinc finger proteins aid estrogen receptor function; therefore, maintaining proper zinc levels is critical for fertility. Zinc deficiency can cause reproductive health problems such as abnormal LH and FSH synthesis, irregular ovarian growth, menstrual cycle disruptions, and pre-eclampsia.

Selenium

Selenium is required to produce selenoproteins, which convert thyroxine to its biologically active form, triiodothyronine (T3). Thyroid metabolism is critical for maintaining hormonal balance in the female fertility system, as hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism can interrupt menstrual cycles and affect conception. Thus, maintaining optimum selenium levels is critical for consistent and effective ovulation.

Iodine

Iodine is essential for thyroid function and hormone production, as this mineral interacts with reproductive hormones like estrogen and progesterone. Iodine deficiency can cause hypothyroidism, infertility, and reproductive abnormalities.

Adequate iodine consumption is vital for all menstrual stages. In fact, animal studies have indicated that Lugol’s iodine therapy can increase fertility in cows with unexplained infertility.

Iron

Iron, a key component of hemoglobin, is required for red blood cell oxygen transport and physiological activities. Iron deficiency can cause anemia, reduced oocyte quality, and reduced ovulation frequency.

Maintaining adequate iron levels is critical for women trying to conceive, as low levels can lead to infertility. Comparatively, iron overload can reduce egg counts in assisted reproductive technologies.

Calcium

Calcium is an essential component of the female reproductive system, as it affects bone health, hormone output, and sperm fusion. The release of calcium causes the pituitary gland to release LH and FSH, thereby encouraging the ovaries to produce estrogen and progesterone.

Calcium indirectly impacts hormonal control by altering ovulation and ovary function. Moreover, balanced calcium levels are crucial for optimal cellular division and embryo implantation.

Magnesium

Magnesium is vital to hormonal balance and female fertility. It is involved in enzymes such as aromatase, which converts androgens into estrogens. Magnesium is involved in about 600 enzymatic activities, including deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) repair and glutathione metabolism.

Magnesium can also improve insulin sensitivity and minimize comorbidities. The antioxidative capabilities of this mineral indirectly improve fertility by protecting the body against oxidative damage, preserving oocyte quality, modifying ovulation, and promoting endometrial health.

Copper

Copper is crucial for protecting the body against oxidative stress by functioning as a cofactor for the superoxide dismutase enzyme. Copper affects antioxidant systems, signal transduction, and gene expression; however, excess copper can have pro-oxidative effects and impair endothelial function.

Manganese

Manganese, a valuable trace mineral, acts as a free radical-scavenging antioxidant to protect cell structures from oxidative stress and potentially improve female reproductive wellness. Oxidative stress impairs oocyte function and quality, thereby disrupting the hormonal regulation of female fertility.

Conclusions

Minerals have crucial roles in female fertility, particularly hormonal control, ovulation, oxidative stress, and endometrial health. Certain minerals, such as selenium, calcium, and zinc, are essential for the follicular phase and ovulation. Conversely, iron excess, zinc shortages, inadequate magnesium consumption, and copper imbalances can indirectly affect female fertility.

Journal reference:

  • Kapper, C., Oppeit, P., Ganhor, C., et al. (2024). Minerals and the Menstrual Cycle: Impacts on Ovulation and Endometrial Health. Nutrients 16(1008). doi:10.3390/nu16071008



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