We’ve talked a few times on this blog about how men’s sperm quality decreases with age–and their chances of fathering a child with schizophrenia and some genetic defects–increases (the risk is still extremely low, but it is elevated in older men). But there may be hope.
According to Andrew J. Wyrobek, who lead a team of researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Californian and the University of Bradford in England, middle-age and older men who consumed antioxidant-rich foods and supplements had better quality (less damaged) sperm than men who consumed less.
Like so many other studies that show connections between two things, it’s not completely clear that the antioxidants themselves are what’s causing the improved sperm quality. “People who eat well are probably doing a bunch of other healthy things, too,” said Wyrobek in an interview with Reuters. That said, according to Wyrobek, “It appears that consuming more micronutrients such as vitamin C, E, folate and zinc helps turn back the clock for older men… We found that men 44 and older who consumed at least the recommended dietary allowance of certain micronutrients had sperm with a similar amount of DNA damage as the sperm of younger men.”
Vitamin C seemed to produce the biggest effects. Men 45 and got the most had about 20% less DNA damage than those who took less. But before you go to Costco and load up on antioxidants,consider this. The guys in the high-intake group took 700 milligrams per day. The US Recommended Daily Allowance is 90 mg, but it’s considered safe to take as much as 2000 mg/day–nearly three times what the “high-intake” guys were taking. The same basic rule applied to the other supplements: men taking the largest amounts were still well within the zone of what’s considered medically safe.
Bottom line: “[M]en who are at increased risk of sperm DNA damage because of advancing age can do something about it,” says Wyrobek. “They can make sure they get enough vitamins and micronutrients in their diets or through supplements.”
This study was published in the journal Fertility and Sterility. You can get more details here: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/09/14/us-antioxidants-sperm-idUSBRE88D13W20120914