Folic acid 'increases chance of healthy sperm'
20 March 2008 00:00 in Industry related health news
Men who consume higher levels of folic acid are more likely to have healthy sperm, according to research published today.
Folate is a water-soluble B vitamin that occurs naturally in food such as leafy green vegetables, with folic acid being the synthetic form of the vitamin.
Many women hoping to have children are already advised to maintain adequate levels of folate in their diet but the study by scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory suggests men should also improve their folate levels for their reproductive health.
The researchers discovered that men who consumed high levels of folate and folic acid tended to have lower levels of abnormal sperm where a chromosome had been lost or gained (known as aneuploidy).
They analysed sperm samples from 89 healthy, non-smoking men and questioned them about their daily total intake (from diet and from vitamin supplements) of zinc, folate, vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene.
"We found a statistically significant association between high folate intake and lower sperm aneuploidy," said Professor Brenda Eskenazi, director of the Centre for Children's Environmental Health at the School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley.
"There was increasing benefit with increasing intake, and men in the upper 25th percentile who had the highest intake of folate between 722-1150 micrograms, had 20 to 30 per cent lower frequencies of several types of aneuploidy compared with men with a lower intake."
However she cautioned that the study does not prove high folate intake caused the lower sperm aneuploidy levels, only that there is an association.
"This is the first study of its kind and the results indicate the need for further research, especially a randomised controlled trial, on this topic," Professor Eskenazi added.
The research is published in the journal Human Reproduction.
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