By Anna Boyd
Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that men with relatively low levels of folate (a B Vitamin) had increased risks for sperm containing either too few or too many chromosome, a condition known as aneuploidy. This condition is connected to failure to conceive, miscarriages, and children born with conditions such as Down’s syndrome, Turner’s syndrome and Klinefelter’s syndrome.
“We looked at sperm to find different kinds of genetic abnormalities. The abnormalities we looked at here were having too few or too many chromosomes,” 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 said, according to the Washington Post.
The researchers analyzed sperm samples from 89 healthy, non-smoking men and questioned them about their daily intake of zinc, folate, vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene. They found men with the highest intake of folate or folic acid (between 722 and 1150 micrograms a day) had 20 percent to 30 percent lower frequencies of aneuploidy compared to men with a lower intake. No correlation was made between the other vitamins and sperm aneuploidy.
The current recommended daily intake of folate for men over the age of 19 is 400 micrograms. Health experts recommend women of childbearing age maintain a healthy intake of folate because it is essential for healthy fetal developmental and to prevent neural tube birth defects such as spina bifida or anencephaly (severe type of brain damage). That’s the reason why folic acid is now added to bread, cereal, flour and other grain products in the U.S.
This study is the first to “say that male diet may be important for healthy offspring as well.”
“The emphasis related to the birth of a healthy baby has been weighted towards the health and diet of women, not just during pregnancy, but before. What we’re finding now is that a nutritious diet, specifically folate intake, may be beneficial for men as well when it comes to producing healthy offspring,” Dr. Eskenazi said.
She also adds that if other studies confirm her team’s findings of the link between folate intake and aneuploidy, scientists may recommend men tale folic acid for at least three months before trying to conceive.
The idea that diet can improve sperm quality is less well established. “There is increasing evidence from a number of studies to suggest that dietary factors can correlate with sperm health. The story so far suggests that dietary factors won’t help you make more sperm, but good diet might just improve that quality of the ones that are made,” said Dr. Allan Pacey, senior lecturer in andrology at the University of Sheffield and honorary secretary of the British Fertility Society, BBC News reported.
The study findings are published in the March 20 issue of the journal Human Reproduction.
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