In industrialized countries, fertility has declined in recent years to the lowest recorded levels. Identifying modifiable factors that influence human fertility, such as diet, is therefore of major clinical and public health relevance. Micronutrient status is a modifiable risk factor that may have an impact on female fertility, as essential vitamins and minerals have important roles in the physiological processes that are involved. Adequate levels are important for oocyte quality, maturation, fertilization, and implantation, whereas antioxidants are vital to reduce oxidative stress, a process known to impair fertility. In women who are diagnosed as infertile, lower than recommended levels of certain micronutrients have been reported. A similar scenario has been found in a proportion of women of childbearing age in general, some of whom may be struggling to conceive. Supplementation studies with multiple micronutrients are still scarce, but the literature suggests that supplementation before conception can help restore micronutrient status to recommended levels and reduce oxidative stress when antioxidants are included. Overall, supplementation has a small but beneficial effect on fertility in healthy and infertile women, including a shorter time to pregnancy and an increased chance of becoming pregnant. Nevertheless, many studies are small or observational, and adequately powered randomized controlled trials of supplementation with multiple micronutrients are necessary to confirm any definite effects on fertility. This review substantiates the potential benefits of micronutrient supplementation beyond the prevention of neural tube defects, the traditionally viewed value of prenatal vitamin use.
Keywords: female; fertility; industrialized countries; multiple micronutrients; preconceptional; supplementation.