Folate, also called vitamin B9 and folic acid, is a nutrient that helps to produce and maintain new cells, and it’s especially important during cell division.
It is an important nutrient for women who are pregnant, or trying to conceive, as it's thought to help prevent birth defects.
In fact, research on women has shown that folate deficiencies may lead to an abnormal number of chromosomes in cells.
However, research also suggests that fathers’ folate levels are also important for healthy foetal development.
Folate and male fertility
According to research published in Human Reproduction, there is substantial evidence to support the role of the micronutrient folate in the maintenance of normal sperm development and maturation.
The researchers recruited 97 healthy men of varying age with no current reproductive or fertility problems who provided information on their diet, lifestyle and supplement intake..
The men with a high total folate intake experienced 18–30% lower frequencies of several types of sperm aneuploidy (abnormal number of chromosomes) compared to men with lower folate intake.
According to the researchers, this study shows there is a significant, inverse relationship between daily folate intake and the frequency of abnormal numbers of chromosomes in sperm in healthy men across a wide age range. This includes folate derived from both dietary and supplementary sources.
Folate for Dads-to-be
The current recommended daily intake (RDI) for folate in men is 400 µg
Men who are planning to conceive a child may benefit from adopting a lifestyle that increases their folate levels.
Folate-rich foods include:
- Vegetables - Including asparagus and broccoli, and green leafy vegetables such as spinach
- Fruits - Such as oranges, bananas and strawberries
- Legumes - Including chickpeas, dried beans and lentils
- Others - Includes nuts, and yeast extracts such as vegemite. Some foods also have folate added to them (fortified), such as breads, breakfast cereals and fruit juices
You can also boost your folate levels through the use of supplements.
Finally, if you have any concerns about your folate intake, speak to your doctor or naturopath.
References available on request