Treatment with folic acid and zinc supplements may raise the sperm count of some men with fertility problems, new research from the Netherlands suggests.
The study, which included about 100 infertile 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.
Investigators 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 infertile 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.
Male infertility involves multiple underlying factors, including genetics. Animal research has suggested that nutrition affects the production of sperm, although the key nutrients remain unclear. Also unknown is whether deficiencies in the B vitamin folate or zinc are risk factors for male infertility. The infertile men in their study did not differ from fertile men in blood levels of folate or zinc.
Folate occurs in foods such as green, leafy vegetables, legumes and oranges; in Canada flour is fortified with folic acid making bread and some pastas a fair source. Zinc is found foods like red meat, poultry, oysters and fortified cereals.
All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.