Folate, also called vitamin B9, is a nutrient that helps to produce and maintain new cells, and it’s especially important during cell division . Folic acid technically refers to the synthetic form of folate – either in enriched foods or vitamin supplements.
It is an important nutrient for women who are pregnant, or trying to conceive. Research on women suggests that folate deficiencies may lead to an abnormal number of chromosomes in cells.
At least 400 µg is recommended for women planning a pregnancy and for the first three months of pregnancy. This is an important diet tweak for expectant mums
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.
Folic acid benefits
Not only does folate support fertility and reproduction, it has a range of other benefits:
- Heart health - supports heart health by lowering homocysteine levels
- Mood and brain health - helps support normal cognition and balanced mood
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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 on a daily basis.
The best way to do this may be to increase your intake of foods that contain the nutrient.
Good folic acid foods include:
- Green vegetables - Including asparagus and broccoli, and green leafy vegetables such as spinach
- Fruits - Such as citrus fruits, bananas and strawberries
- Legumes - Including chickpeas, dried beans and lentils
- Meat and eggs – Turkey and duck are the highest in folate
- Others - Includes nuts, and yeast extracts such as vegemite. Some foods also have folate added to them (fortified), such as breakfast cereals and fruit juices. In fact, since 2009, bread has been fortified with folic acid in accordance with the Australian government’s mandatory folic acid fortification program
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
First published 7th July 2014