Can Dad's Diet Make a Healthier Baby?
Is Dad Eating for Two?
"This confirms previous studies in rats, showing that
folate deficiency, if it's severe, causes impairment in sperm counts," says
Marc Goldstein, MD, an expert in male infertility who is not associated with
the study. Goldstein, a professor of reproductive medicine and urology at Weill
Medical College of Cornell University, and co-executive director of the Cornell
Institute for Reproductive Medicine, says there is growing evidence that
"folate does seem to be important in sperm production."
While Wallock and her colleagues also noted that smokers -- who
made up approximately half the subject group -- had significantly lower levels
of the non-methyl form in their semen than non-smokers, they drew no specific
conclusions from this, calling instead for further research into this
Based on Wallock's findings, men trying to conceive might
benefit from the same daily dose of folic acid recommended for women. "Five
to nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day
should be adequate to meet folic acid requirements," says Wallock. Folic
acid also may be obtained through supplements, but Wallock recommends improving
the overall diet for the other important health benefits it imparts.
Goldstein says there's no harm in advising men to take a
multivitamin, but he says there is no firm evidence that increasing folic acid
in the diet will lead to higher sperm counts or higher fertility rates. He also
says Wallock's study is limited by its small size and design. "The study is
deficient in that it did not look at a general population," he tells WebMD.
He notes that the men in the study reported eating no more than 3.5 servings of
fruits and vegetables per day. "These are patients who are already likely
to have folate deficiencies and inadequate folate nutrition."
Wallock agrees that it will be necessary to repeat the study
with a larger group of subjects. Still, she says the study "probably
reflects a large segment of the population. Many men out there don't eat many
fruits and vegetables every day. ... We certainly don't have an extremely
well-nourished population out there."
Other physicians emphasize the importance of looking at various
nutrients and environmental factors, noting the complexity of male