March 20, 2002 -- Men who have trouble conceiving may get a boost from nutritional supplements that increase sperm count. A new study found a combination of folic acid and zinc supplements increased sperm count by 74% in men with fertility problems.
It still remains to be seen whether those higher sperm counts will translate into improved pregnancy rates, but researchers say the findings may open up new avenues for male fertility research and treatments.
The Dutch study, published in the March issue of Fertility and Sterility, looked at the effects of the supplements in men with low sperm counts whose female partner had not conceived after one year of regular, unprotected intercourse. Healthy men with no history of fertility problems also took the supplements to see what effect they would have. Folic acid and zinc supplements were studied because both elements are essential to the formation of DNA and creation of sperm.
Researchers found that the men with fertility problems who took 5 mg of folic acid a day and 66 mg of zinc sulfate a day for 26 weeks had a 74% increase in total normal sperm count and a minor (4%) increase in abnormal sperm count. No significant increases were found among the healthy men's sperm counts. The study author says that's most likely due to the greater variability in sperm count in these men compared with the men with infertility.
When either zinc or folic acid was taken alone, there was no significant effect on sperm production.
Researchers say more study is needed to understand how these two micronutrients work together to affect male fertility before widespread use of the supplements can be recommended as a fertility treatment.