Melbourne: Selenium, a natural antioxidant found in protein-rich foods like red meat, seafood and nuts, plays an important role at the earliest stages of a woman's fertility, finds research.
"We have known for some time that selenium is important to men's fertility, but until now no one has researched how this element could be involved in healthy reproduction in women," said researcher Melanie Ceko from University of Adelaide in Australia.
“It (selenium) is important for many biological functions, such as immune response, thyroid hormone production, and acts as an antioxidant, helping to detoxify damaging chemicals in the body," Ceko added.
Selenium is important to the development of healthy ovarian follicles, which are responsible for the production of eggs in women, the findings showed.
"Our findings are important, because they show that selenium and selenoproteins are at elevated levels in large, healthy ovarian follicles,” Ceko said.
“We suspect they play a critical role as an antioxidant during the late stages of follicle development, helping to lead to a healthy environment for the egg," she added.
The researchers first determined where selenium is located in the ovary and then turned their attention to the selenoprotein known as GPX1.
They found that gene expression of GPX1 was significantly higher - in some cases double - in egg cells that yielded a pregnancy.
“Too much selenium can also be toxic, so it isn't just a case of taking multiple supplements," Ceko cautioned.
This research was published in the journal Metallomics.