Folic acid, zinc fail at improving male fertility
The use of folic acid and zinc supplementation by men did not significantly improve semen quality or couples’ live birth rates, according to a randomized clinical trial published in JAMA.
“These findings do not support the use of folic acid and zinc supplementation by male partners in the treatment of infertility,” Enrique F. Schisterman, PhD, senior researcher at the NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and colleagues wrote.
The 6-month trial included 2,370 men and women who sought infertility treatment in the United States. The men were randomly assigned daily doses of 5 mg of folic acid and 30 mg of elemental zinc or placebo. According to the researchers, 1,629 men had semen available for analysis at 6 months after randomization.
Researchers found that the number of live births was not significantly different between treatment groups (404 in the folic acid and zinc group vs. 416 in the placebo group). Sperm concentration, morphology, motility, volume and total motile sperm count were also not significantly different between treatment groups.
Schisterman and colleagues also observed a statistically significant increase in DNA fragmentation among those who took folic acid and zinc supplementation (mean of 29.7% for percentage of DNA fragmentation in the folic acid and zinc group, 27.2% in the placebo group). Gastrointestinal symptoms, such as abdominal discomfort or pain, were more common with folic acid and zinc supplementation vs. placebo.
Neel Parekh, MD, who was not affiliated with the study, told Healio Primary Care that infertility affects one in six couples worldwide and that in about half these instances, the male factor is responsible.
He added that couples will often turn to antioxidants to reduce high levels of reactive oxygen species and improve semen quality. They are considered “all-natural” and “healthy,” he said — “a general assumption that is reinforced by aggressive marketing in a multibillion-dollar industry.”
“However, less than 25% of dietary supplement purchases are recommended by health care providers,” Parekh continued, “and several studies have demonstrated that excess antioxidant supplementation may have detrimental effects on reductive stress.” – by Janel Miller
Disclosures: The study’s authors and Parekh report no relevant financial disclosures.