Taking folic acid can enhance fertility in men, researchers say

Men who increase their intake of a vitamin traditionally recommended for pregnant women can cut their chance of having abnormal sperm, researchers said today.

A study published in the journal Human Reproduction found that men who consumed a higher than recommended daily amount of folate and folic acid had lower frequency of abnormal sperm.

Researchers in California analysed sperm samples from 89 men and questioned them about their daily intake from both diet and vitamin supplements. Men who consumed between 722 and 1,150 micrograms had a 20-30 per cent reduction in abnormal sperm.

In the UK, the daily recommended amount for adults is 200 micrograms per day and 400 micrograms for women trying to conceive and until the third month of pregnancy. Folic acid is known to help protect against the development of spina bifida.

Folate is a water soluble B vitamin in food such as pulses, beans and spinach while folic acid is its synthetic form.

One of the researchers, Brenda Eskenazi, Professor of Maternal and Child Health and Epidemiology and Director of the Centre for Children's Environmental Health at the University of California, Berkeley, said: "In previous studies, we and others have shown that paternal micronutrient intake may contribute to successful conceptions by improving the quality of the sperm.

"This study is the first to suggest that paternal diet may play a role in the development of healthy offspring."