11 January 2020

Male fertility supplements fail to deliver

According to researchers, zinc and folic acid supplements don't improve pregnancy rates, sperm counts or sperm function.

Supplements containing zinc and folic acid don't appear to boost male fertility, a new study finds.

Despite marketing claims, these supplements don't improve pregnancy rates, sperm counts or sperm function, researchers say.

More abdominal discomfort

"Our results suggest that these dietary supplements have little to no effect on fertility and may even cause mild gastrointestinal symptoms," researcher Enrique Schisterman said in a news release from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, part of the US National Institutes of Health. He is with the institute's division of intramural population health research.

The researchers recruited more than 2 300 US couples planning to get fertility treatment. They randomly assigned the men to take a pill containing zinc and folic acid or a placebo.

Births didn't differ between men who got the supplement and men who didn't. Among men who took the supplement, there were 404 births, compared with 416 among men who took the placebo, the researchers reported.

Sperm health was also similar between the groups. But the proportion of broken DNA in the sperm was higher in the supplement group (30%) than in the placebo group (27%). Studies have linked a high rate of broken sperm DNA with infertility, the researchers noted.

Men who took the supplement also reported more abdominal discomfort, nausea and vomiting than men who took the placebo.

The report was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Image credit: iStock


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