Acid Linked To Male Fertility
-- Lack of folic acid in the diet could be causing fertility problems
in men, claims a new study.
call the conclusion a stretch.
also known as vitamin B-9, is found in vegetables, orange juice
and fortified grains such as breakfast cereal. It previously has
been linked to the healthy development of babies in pregnant women.
researchers say they found that men with low sperm counts also
were deficient in one type of folic acid. In some cases, low sperm
counts can make men less fertile.
that folic acid has some importance for male reproductive health,"
says study co-author Lynn Wallock, an assistant research scientist
at the Children's Hospital of Oakland Research Institute.
But Dr. Paul
Turek, an associate professor of urology at the University of
California, San Francisco, says sperm count is only one part of
a man's reproductive ability. Plus, he says, there's no way to
know whether the men in the study actually could have children.
don't have to be normal for men to be fertile," Turek says.
which looked at 24 smokers and 24 nonsmokers, also suggests that
low folic acid levels could be related to problems with the DNA
that is inside sperm, Wallock says. And that, she says, could
lead to babies with birth defects or cancer. Details of the study
appear in a recent issue of Fertility & Sterility.
"In some instances,
we may see that the number of sperm is OK, but the DNA inside
the cell is not," Wallock says. "The sperm cell is delivering
a package that contains the DNA. It could be that the package
gets delivered just fine, but once the DNA gets inserted, there
may be mistakes in it."
But that finding
has drawn protest, as well.
the study simply is too preliminary to suggest a potentially alarming
link between folic acid levels and birth defects.
is "far too premature," he says.
Sutovsky, a staff scientist with the Oregon Health Sciences University,
says the California study may needlessly make some smokers fear
they'll pass along cancer to their children. The study found that
smokers have lower levels of one kind of folic acid.
the study actually had higher sperm counts than the nonsmokers,
Sutovsky says. He speculates that the body might have a failsafe
mechanism that orders the production of more sperm cells if it
detects some defective ones.
Wallock and Turek do agree that a proper diet is important to
the reproductive health of men.
men should eat well, sleep well, reduce their stress and treat
their body as a temple," Turek says. "Good reproductive health
is good overall health."
that men should follow federal recommendations and eat five to
nine servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
she says, that many more men are getting enough folic acid because
in 1998 the government began requiring that certain foods be fortified
with the nutrient.
the full impact of fortification is unclear," she says. "Also,
men with certain gastrointestinal disorders or who drink a lot
of alcohol or take antifolate drugs [such as those used in chemotherapy]
would be expected to be at greater risk [of not getting enough]."
having trouble making a baby, watch your diet -- whether you're
male or female. Wallock says little research has been done into
possible connections between nutrition and male reproductive health,
but it doesn't hurt to eat right.
overdo it, she says. It's difficult, but not impossible, to get
sick from eating too much folic acid, she adds.
learn more about infertility, check out information provided by
Society for Reproductive Medicine or the
International Council on Infertility Information Dissemination.
more on folic acid, take a look at information from the
National Library of Medicine.
Reference Source 101