A study published in Fertility and Sterility reported men who consume a high amount of certain nutrients may produce healthier sperm than men who do not. The study also found this effect to be more pronounced in older men.
Dr. Andrew Wyrobeck and his colleagues from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, California determined dietary micronutrient intake among 80 individuals aged 22 to 80 years. Examples of micronutrients are vitamin C, vitamin E, and zinc. These nutrients are required by the body in small quantities for a whole range of physiological functions. The human body does not produce these micronutrients. Sperms from these individuals were also analysed.
The study found men with a higher intake of vitamin C, vitamin E, folate, and zinc produced sperm that had significantly less DNA damage than men who consumed lower amounts. Analysis showed that older men with an intake below that of the population’s median levels for vitamin C, vitamin E, and zinc (but not β-carotene or folate) had significantly more sperm DNA damage compared with all other groups, including older men with above median intakes.
What does this mean? It means older men who are planning to father a child in the near future should start eating a healthy diet if they are not doing so already. Older fathers, with DNA-damaged sperm, may be contributing to the increasing rates of autism, schizophrenia and other diseases among children and adolescents.
Researchers say consuming micronutrients such as vitamin C, E, folate and zinc helps turn back the clock for older men. The analysis revealed that men older than 44 who consumed the most vitamins and micronutrients had 20 per cent less sperm DNA damage compared to men their own age who consumed the fewest nutrients.
In younger men, a higher intake of micronutrients didn’t improve the quality of the DNA in their sperm. The benefit was observed solely among the older men. But, of course, they are the ones most vulnerable to sperm DNA damage – and therefore have the most to gain from an improved diet.
Future studies are needed to determine whether increased antioxidant intake in older fathers will improve fertility, reduce risks for genetically defective pregnancies, and result in healthier children, concludes the team.
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