Nutrients improve sperm DNA quality in older men

Jacob Wilson/Staff
A study published Monday in part by researchers from UC Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that a higher intake of micronutrients is associated with improved DNA quality in the sperm of older men.

Older men looking to have children may want to monitor the amount of vitamins in their diet.

A study published Monday in part by researchers from UC Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that a higher intake of micronutrients — vitamins and minerals like vitamin C and zinc — is strongly associated with improved DNA quality in the sperm of older men.

The study, which was co-authored by LBNL senior staff scientist Andrew Wyrobek and UC Berkeley professor Brenda Eskenazi along with other researchers, measured the daily micronutrient intake of men aged 22 to 80 and the effect that level of intake had on the DNA quality of their sperm.

By separating the men into the three categories of low, moderate and high micronutrient intake, researchers found that men over the age of 44 who consumed the most vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc or folate micronutrients had approximately 20 percent less sperm DNA damage than those who consumed the lowest amount. The results of the study were published online Monday in the journal Fertility and Sterility.

“Men’s age has been associated with reduced semen quality, increased frequencies of sperm with structural aberrations, increased sperm DNA fragmentation, and increased frequencies of sperm carrying achondroplasia gene mutations,” the paper reads. “Normally aging males are predicted to experience higher frequencies of chromosomally defective pregnancies and higher proportions of offspring carrying heritable genetic defects.”

A separate study published Aug. 22 in the journal Nature found that older men are more likely than younger men to pass on gene mutations in their sperm linked to autism and schizophrenia.

But older men inwho consumed above the recommended daily intake of micronutrients had the same level of sperm damage as the younger men in the study, said Andrew Wyrobek, a co-author of the research and a senior staff scientist at Berkeley Lab.

Paul Turek, owner of the The Turek Clinic — a male fertility center in San Francisco — said that the study’s findings make sense because anti-oxidants that can protect DNA from oxidant damage can decrease in frequency as men age.

“Younger men have more capacity to kill oxidants, and the machinery of older men is more taxed,” he said.

Although the researchers found a clear association between higher micronutrient intake and improved sperm DNA in older men, Wyrobek said they still need to confirm whether this link can also be associated with male fertility and the health of offspring.

“The next thing we have to find out is whether pregnancies will be healthier and whether children will be healthier,” said Wyrobek.

 

Contact Alyssa Neumann at [email protected]