Folic acid facts for both
male and female fertility - Pregnancy health
Read up on these folic acid facts and find out why this nutrient is so important for male and female fertility! We'll go over some of the foods high in folic acid so that you can include them in your diet.
Folic acid is also known as the water soluble vitamin B9 or folate which is derived from the Latin term folium (leaf or foliage).
Folate is the name used for the natural source of vitamin B9 found in a variety of different foods. A member of the family of eight B vitamins.
The benefits of folic acid are mostly known for helping women who are trying to conceive and for pregnancy health. Most people don't realize that this vitamin is also essential for male reproductive health (gals, pass this information onto your man)!
We also have some general folic acid facts, as this vitamin has other health benefits!
Folic acid facts for men
Numerous folic acid facts have been accumulating over the years and it's now known that this nutrient is essential for men's sperm health. A diet that includes sufficient folate can reduce the risk of chromosomal defects (made up from DNA and protein) in sperm cells, which can result in birth abnormalities. Folate (along with the other B vitamins) is vital for producing DNA and RNA - molecules that encode genetic information within the cells.
Research - The University of California (Berkely) and the
U.S. Department of Agriculture's Western Human Nutrition Research Center studied 48 men (20 - 50 years old). They measured concentrations of folic acid in their blood and semen. Seminal plasma folate concentrations were an average 1.5 times higher than in the blood plasma. Findings found a link between low levels of seminal plasma folate with low sperm counts and density. This study was published in the journal Fertility and Sterility - February 2001, volume 75, issue 2, pages 252-259.
Research - Dr. Wai Yee Wong of the University Medical Center Nijmegen in the Netherlands led a study on 103 men with fertility problems of unknown cause. The men were given folic acid and zinc supplements for 26 weeks. Both these nutrients are involved in DNA production and are important for the formation of sperm cells. Findings found these men showed a 74 percent increase in the number of normal sperm. Published in the journal Fertility and Sterility - March 2002, volume 77, issue 3, 491-498.
Research - Professor Brenda Eskenazi and team from the University of California (Berkley) conducted a study on 89 healthy non smoking men, regarding the relationship between sperm health and folate consumption. Journal Human Reproduction - March 20, 2008.
Researchers found a significant association between men's folate intake and levels of sperm aneuploidy. This condition is where the sperm cells have either missing or extra chromosomes. It's estimated that even healthy men can have up to 4% of sperm cells with this condition. Levels can vary greatly among men. Aneuploidy can result in failure to conceive, miscarriage, or the child being born with other conditions such as Down's syndrome. Sperm aneuploidy may account for up to one third of miscarriages.
Results showed as the folate intake increased, the levels of aneuploidy decreased. Men who consumed the most folate, between 722-1150 micrograms per day (supplementation or from food sources) had 20-30% lower levels of several types of aneuploidy, compared to men with lower intakes. This study was the first of its kind, and the results indicate the need for further investigation.
However, taking very high doses of folic acid supplements is not recommended. Because of the benefits of folic acid towards men's sperm quality, the appropriate levels for men's fertility health are currently being revised for those trying to conceive. At present the RDA for males stands at 400 micrograms.
Sperm cells are constantly being produced although they take at least three months to mature. Therefore it pays to make sure you are getting enough folate during this preconception period to ensure healthy sperm (three or more months before trying to conceive). Fertility supplements for men provide the adequate folic acid dosage, plus provide other essential nutrients known to aid sperm health.
Folic acid facts for women
Consuming foods high in folic acid and supplementation of this vitamin have been proven to significantly reduce the risks of complications for a developing unborn baby. We cannot overstate how important these following folic acid facts are! All women of childbearing age should be educated about the benefits of this nutrient.
Women who are planning to become pregnant need adequate folic acid intake during this preconception period (at least two - three months before conception) as well as during the first three months of pregnancy. The best way to ensure this is by taking a specially formulated fertility supplement for women. This will provide the necessary amount of folic acid, plus include the other beneficial nutrients required for preconception and pregnancy. Folic acid is vital during periods of rapid cell growth, and can also help prevent miscarriage.
The RDA (recommended daily allowance) for pregnant women is 600-800 micrograms, up to twice the normal RDA of 400 micrograms for adults.
Folic acid protects against several congenital malformations which occur prior to birth, including neural tube defects.
Congenital malformations include -
- Cleft palate
- Congenital heart defects
- Limb defects
- Urinary tract abnormalities
- Facial defects
- Respiratory system abnormalities
- Chromosome abnormalities
Neural tube defects include -
♦ Spina bifida - when the vertebra are not fully formed/fused together.
♦ Anencephaly - absence of a major portion of brain and skull. The baby is either stillborn or dies soon after.
Folic acid facts - The most common cause for neural tube defects are from folate deficiency. Supplementation can reduce this risk by as much as 90 percent!
Recent research is also suggesting another major benefit of folic acid. Taking supplements for a longer period of time before conception, may reduce the risk of premature birth!
Research - Radek Bukowski and colleagues from the University of Texas Medical Branch (US) analyzed data from almost 35,000 pregnant women. They discovered that taking folic acid supplements for at least a year before conception was associated with a 70% reduction in spontaneous premature birth (between 20-28 weeks) and a 50% reduction between 28-32 weeks. This was compared with the rate of premature births from mothers who did not take any supplementation. These findings were published in PLoS Medicine (ANI) - May 12, 2009.
*Please note - A majority of pregnancies are unplanned. Therefore we recommend that any women of childbearing age should incorporate this nutrient into their diet (just in case)!
Some other interesting folic acid facts
Some of these following folic acid facts are not so well known. As you will see, there are many other health advantages from including this nutrient in our diets!
♦ Folic acid from supplements and fortified products is absorbed easier by the body (100% from supplements). Eating foods high in folic acid is just as important as they also contain other important essential nutrients (estimated 50% absorption rate). We recommend a combination of both.
♦ Stress and illness increase the body’s need of folate.
♦ Folate works very closely together with vitamin B12 so a deficiency of one may result in a deficiency of the other, resulting in anemia (low levels of healthy red blood cells). If very high doses of folic acid supplements are taken, this can mask the symptoms of pernicious anemia. Therefore it's usually recommended to supplement both B9 and B12 together.
♦ The daily upper limit from supplements should not exceed 1,000 micrograms per day (usually only taken if prescribed by a health professional). This includes consuming large amounts of fortified food. This is to avoid risking neurological damage in case a B12 deficiency occurs.
♦ As well as the folic acid co-dependency with B12, the two vitamins also work along with vitamin c for the breakdown, utilization and formation of new proteins.
♦ Because folic acid is absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract, any conditions such as celiac disease, colitis, diarrhea, vomiting or any other disorder of the digestive system can result in a deficiency.
♦ This vitamin is primarily stored in the liver, so alcohol interferes with folate absorption and increases the excretion of the vitamin from the body.
♦ Folic acid can be destroyed by high temperatures, light exposure or from being left at room temperature for a long period of time. Only lightly steam vegetables or eat them raw whenever possible.
♦ Folate may help to reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease. This is because of its role in controlling the levels of hymocysteine (one of the amino acids which forms protein) found in the blood. Elevation of this hymocysteine can cause damage to the lining of blood vessels. High levels of hymocysteine have been found in women who have had a miscarriage (folate along with B12 may be beneficial for these women in the future).
♦ Another benefit of folic acid is that it may help prevent or holt the progression of cancer. This is because of the vitamins role in the synthesis, repair and the proper functioning of DNA.
♦ Studies suggest that folate may be important for preventing and treating depression as it is used in the production of serotonin (a chemical that transmits messages between brain cells). This also helps regulate sleep and appetite.
♦ Research has suggested that adequate folic acid in the diet could help prevent Alzheimer's disease.
♦ An important folic acid fact is that this nutrient helps maintain the health of the nervous system and intestinal tract.
*Please note -The risk of folic acid toxicity is extremely low as this is a water soluble vitamin (although still possible). Caution is advised like with all supplements. Do not exceed the recommended dosage stated on the label.
Foods high in folic acid (natural folate)
- Leafy green vegetables such as spinach, collards, cabbage, lettuce, and turnip greens (tops)
- Asparagus, brussels sprouts, broccoli, cucumber, celery, okra (cooked)
- Sweet bell peppers
- Carrots and other root vegetables
- Pumpkin (and the seeds)
- Beans and peas (fresh or dried)
- Lentils (cooked)
- Nuts and seeds
- Cantaloupe melons
- Citrus fruits
- Orange/pineapple and grapefruit juice
- Egg yolk
- Meat/yeast extracts
- Liver - avoid eating too much liver as vitamin A toxicity may result (may pose a risk to an unborn baby)
- Organ meats
- Whole grains/wheat germ/bulgur wheat
- Fortified foods such as cereals and some dairy (check labels)
Incorporate plenty of these foods high in folate into your diets!
A few extra's...
Now you have read about some important folic acid facts, we would like to mention some other topics worth investigating!
Why is nutrition important?
Sometimes it's good to go back to the basics! It can be easy to forget about healthy eating with all the convenience foods available out there. Find out what the different essential nutrients are, and the roles they play within the body.
benefits of organic food!
Modern agriculture is hazardous to human health and can contribute towards many fertility problems. Find out more about pesticides and other sprays, growth hormones, genetic engineering, antibiotics and food irradiation.
You'll also find our page on
of uppermost importance. This is such a critical time for both men and women. A planning and detoxification time can help aid fertility, plus cut the risks of pregnancy complications or birth disorders.
Spinach and avocado salad (serves 2-3)
Mix together and drizzle with olive oil
- 1 Large diced avocado
- Juice of 1 lime
- 225g/8oz Fresh baby spinach leaves
- Half sliced cucumber
- 6 Sliced asparagus spears (light steam or quick stir fry)
✔ Folic acid fact - raw spinach has the highest amount of folate out of any other vegetable!
Your Granny didn't tell you to eat your greens for nothing! With these known folic acid facts, there is more reason than ever to eat nutritiously. Enjoy your meals!
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