If you've been looking for fertility supplements, you've probably come across recommendations for folic acid. One of the B vitamins, folate (or folic acid as it is known in supplement form) is required for red blood cell development and DNA production. Folate also plays an important role in cell division. Low levels of folate in the blood are linked to a form of anemia.
Folic acid is clearly an essential nutrient in the body. But can folic acid help with conception? Should men also take folic acid? Should you take a dietary supplement or can you get what you need from diet alone?
Folic Acid Benefits for Men
Folic acid can help with erectile dysfunctionand it possibly couldincrease sperm count. There are mixed studies on how well folic acid improves semen, but there's no harm in trying. Folic acid is worth trying if you're trying to increase your fertility.
Folic acid and male fertility
The need for folic acid or folic acid in women of childbearing age is well known. (More on female fertility and folic acid below.) But could folic acid improve male fertility? Before we get an embryo, we need an egg and a sperm.
While women are born with all the eggs they will ever have, men's bodies produce sperm on a daily basis. In fact, 1,500 new sperm cells are "born" every second.
The process from germline stem cell to sperm cell takes about 60 days. Folic acid is an essential nutrient when it comes to cell division and DNA synthesis
Folate levels measured in semen have been linkedsperm countand health. One study found that low semen folic acid levels are associated with poor sperm DNA stability. From this we can learn that folic acid plays an important role in sperm health.
Supplementation and sperm count
Could Taking Folic Acid Supplements Increase Your Sperm Count? The answer is maybe. One study found that combined supplementation of folic acid and zinc for 26 weeks increased total sperm count in fertile and fertile peopleinfertile men. In fact, it increased the normal total sperm count by 74 percent.
Also of interest in this study was that before starting supplementation, seminal folate and zinc levels were not significantly different in the fertile and subfertile men. This may indicate that this was the case, although this was not the caseDieCause of lower sperm counts, supplementation has helped anyway.
While research is ongoing, there appears to be a link between folic acid and seed health. However, folic acid is not a “cure-all” for severe cases of male infertility.
A separate study examined the effects of zinc and folic acid supplements inMen with oligoasthenoteratozoospermia (OAT).OAT is when sperm count is low, motility (sperm movement) is abnormally low, and the percentage of normally shaped sperm is low.
This study found that supplementation with folic acid and zinc did thisnotSignificantly improve sperm health in these men. If you decide to take a supplement, how much should you take?
You can get a folate boost from a daily multivitamin, or you can consider taking a "male prenatal" vitamin. Highly recommended, ConceptionXR®: Reproductive Health Formula contains folic acid along with zinc, vitamin C, vitamin D, selenium and lycopene, all nutrients found to improve male fertility.
Folic acid and female fertility
Women who don't get enough folic acid in their diet are at a higher risk of having a baby with a neural tube defect. When we consider how a baby starts out - a single cell that divides and divides - it makes sense that folic acid could help ensure cell division and therefore proper fetal development.
Neural tube defects, which occur in approximately 3,000 pregnancies each year in the United States, include spina bifida, anencephaly, and encephalocele. These birth defects can result in lifelong disability at best, early death at worst.
If you have a family history of neural tube defects, you're at an even higher risk of having a child with one of these birth defects.
While folic acid cannot eliminate these birth defects, folic acid supplementation, started before conception and continued throughout early pregnancy, has been found to reduce the occurrence of these birth defects by up to 60 percent. (More on supplementation below.) Other potential benefits of folic acid supplementation include:
- A reduced risk of congenital heart disease
- A lower risk ofpremature birthand a lower risk oflow birth weight babies
- Increased progesterone levels and a reduced risk ofirregular ovulation
There are many good reasons for women trying to conceive to make sure they are getting enough folate.
Foods rich in folic acid
Because of the link between birth defects and folic acid deficiency, most bread and cereal products in the United States and Canada are fortified with folic acid. Fortified cereals and breads are probably the easiest way to add more folic acid to your diet.
Recommended daily intake
For your information, the recommended intake of folic acid is:
- 400 mcg for men and women aged 14 and over
- 500 mcg for breastfeeding women
- 600 mcg for pregnant women
For women trying to conceive, the recommended intake is 400 mcg to 1,000 mcg daily. If there is a family history of autism or developmental delays, your doctor may recommend a higher amount, but should not exceed 2,000 mcg per day.
Aside from your morning bowl of fortified muesli, here are 10 foods high in folic acid:
- Asparagus, 4 sticks cooked: 89 mcg
- Avocado, 0.5 Roh tax: 59 mcg
- Beef liver, 3 oz.: 215 mcg
- Black-eyed peas, 0.5 cupboiled: 105 mcg
- Bought broccoli, 0.5: 52 mcg
- Rosenkohl, 0,5 cupboiled: 78 mcg
- Romaine lettuce, 1.0 cup shredded: 64 mcg
- Spinat, Bought 0.5 Tasse: 131 mcg
- Spinach, 1 cup raw: 58 mcg
- White rice, 0.5 cups cooked: 90 mcg
Other foods with folate include mustard greens, green peas, kidney beans, peanuts, wheat germ, tomato juice, shrimp, orange juice, turnip greens, oranges, papaya, and bananas.
Folic Acid Supplements
Despite bread and muesli fortification, most women still don't get enough folic acid in their diet. Because many pregnancies are unplanned and this vitamin must be in place before you conceive, March of Dimes recommends that all women of childbearing age take a daily supplement of at least 400 micrograms of folic acid.
During pregnancy, the recommended daily folic acid supplementation increases to 600 mcg. Your doctor may recommend a prenatal vitamin to take while trying to conceive, or simply a daily multivitamin. Just check that the multivitamin contains at least 400 mcg of folic acid.
If you have a family history of neural tube defects, your doctor may recommend taking 4,000 to 5,000 mcg of folic acid. However, since these levels are above the recommended upper limits, you should only take this high dose under the supervision of your doctor.
Importance of daily intake
Folic acid is a water-soluble vitamin, which means it must be replaced in the body on a daily basis. For best results, take your supplement daily. One study found that the benefits of folic acid supplementation did not materialize when taken two or fewer days per week.
Risks of folic acid supplementation
You can have too much of a good thing. Unless your doctor prescribes it, your daily supplements should contain no more than 1,000 mcg of folic acid.
Taking large doses of folic acid can cover up a vitamin B-12 deficiency, which can cause irreversible damage if not caught early. Your doctor should test your B-12 levels before giving you high-dose folic acid supplements.
There's also concern that high doses of folic acid might actually damage DNA synthesis in sperm.
Folic acid can interact with other medications. For example, folic acid can reduce the effectiveness of the antiepileptic drug phenytoin. Some fertility blends also contain herbs that may interactfertility drugs. So be sure to talk to your doctor before starting any supplement.
A word from Verywell
Folic acid is an important vitamin for both men and women. Adequate intake of folic acid can help reduce the risk of birth defects and improve sperm count in men.
they dofertility supplementsfor men and women who are trying to conceive but are not all the same. Some might contain ingredients that aren't good for you, may interact with medications you're taking, or even be harmful.
Always talk to your doctor before you start supplementing, and tell your health care team about any vitamin, herb, or other supplement you're taking.