Folic Acid Shown
to Boost Sperm Count
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Treatment with folic acid and zinc
supplements may raise the sperm count of some men with fertility
problems, new research suggests.
The study, which included about 100 subfertile men, did not look
at whether this boost in sperm number translated to better odds
of conceiving. But researchers say their findings open up that possibility.
Their results are published in the March issue of the journal
Fertility and Sterility.
Investigators led by Dr. Wai Yee Wong of the University Medical
Centre Nijmegen in the Netherlands studied men with fertility
problems of unknown cause, as well as a comparison group of fertile
men. Over 26 weeks, men in both groups followed one of four regimens:
daily doses of folic acid and zinc, folic acid alone, zinc alone,
or inactive treatment with a placebo.
After treatment, the subfertile men given both supplements showed
a 74% increase in the number of normal sperm in their semen, along
with a small increase in abnormal sperm. Men in the fertile group
had small increases in sperm count when given folic acid plus
zinc, or zinc alone, according to the report.
Male infertility involves multiple underlying factors, including
genetics. According to Wong's team, animal research has suggested
that nutrition affects the production of sperm, although the key
nutrients remain unclear.
Also unknown is whether deficiencies in folate--the naturally
occurring form of folic acid--or zinc are risk factors for male
infertility, the researchers note. The subfertile men in their
study did not differ from fertile men in blood levels of folate
Still, both nutrients are essential to proper genetic expression,
which means they could play a role in the normal generation of
Folate occurs in foods such as green, leafy vegetables, legumes
and oranges; many cereals and grain products are fortified with
folic acid. Zinc is found foods like red meat, poultry, and fortified
While the current findings are encouraging, Wong's team points
out that it is unclear whether the boost in sperm count will lead
to higher pregnancy rates. They call for larger trials to look
further into the safety and effectiveness of giving the supplements
to subfertile men.
SOURCE: Fertility and Sterility 2002;77:491-498.
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