Researchers are now saying that for men to increase their risk of fertility, they should make sure they are getting a high intake level of folic acid.
Folic acid and folate (the anion form) are forms of the water-soluble Vitamin B9. These occur naturally in food and can also be taken as supplements. Folate gets its name from the Latin word folium ("leaf").
For years, women who seek to become pregnant have been urged to increase their folate levels, but this study finds that men need to do the same.
For the study, 89 healthy men submitted sperm samples to be analyzed and also submitted surveys pertaining to their diet, overall health and supplement use.
The results showed that those men with a high level of folic acid intake were much less likely to have damaged sperm than the other men whose folate intake was less.
"We looked at sperm to find different kinds of genetic abnormalities," said lead researcher Brenda Eskenazi, a professor of maternal and child health and epidemiology and director of the Center for Children's Environmental Health at Berkeley's School of Public Health. "The abnormalities we looked at here were having too few or too many chromosomes," she said.
Leafy vegetables such as spinach, turnip greens, lettuces, dried beans and peas, fortified cereal products, sunflower seeds and certain other fruits and vegetables are rich sources of folate. Some breakfast cereals (ready-to-eat and others) are fortified with 25% to 100% of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for folic acid. A table of selected food sources of folate and folic acid can be found at the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.
The study findings are published in the March 20 issue of the journalHuman Reproduction.