Folic acid is vitamin B9 but unlike folate, it is not a natural form of this water-soluble vitamin. It is synthetically prepared, added in supplements and sold for medicinal purposes. On the other hand, folate is found abundantly in a variety of foods, especially green leafy vegetables. Foods fortified with vitamin B9 are also available in the market.
It is observed that women who wish to get pregnant in the near future are often advised to take folic acid supplements so as to ensure healthy delivery and to keep the baby away from any sort of birth defects. However, did you know that use of folic acid is not just restricted to fairer sex but even men may require it for reasons given here:
Improves Male Fertility
Recent studies have attributed lack of folic acid as one of the reasons behind male fertility. Men become infertile when they suffer from poor sperm count and reduced sperm quality.
It is a fact that healthy sperms are a pre-requisite to prevent fertility issues in men. Defective sperms in men can not only cause infertility but also increase the risk of birth defects in the developing baby.
Studies show that issues associated with sperm count and quality can be corrected with folic acid supplements. This is indeed good news for males with partial infertility, as research suggests that including vitamin B9 in the diet could be instrumental in increasing quantity and quality of sperm.
Men wanting to experience fatherhood need to understand that it is of prime importance to ensure adequate folic acid intake. Deficiency in vitamin B9 can not only cause low sperm production but also damage the sperm DNA, which may inflict birth defects in the developing baby.
It is observed that sperm quality decreases due to presence of chromosomal abnormalities. In a study, high intake of folic acid (more than 700 mcg and less than 1000 mcg) in the diet has been linked to 20-30% drop in the risk of developing sperm abnormalities.
The association between healthy sperms and nutritious diet was noticed when sperm samples of men following good eating habits were examined by researchers of University of California.
Besides being non smokers, their diet was found to be a good source of folate. Moreover, some of them also took supplements containing folic acid. The result suggested a strong connection between vitamin B9 consumption and reduced defects in sperm cells.
Researchers in Netherlands, in a study also unraveled the power of vitamin B9 in enhancing sperm quality when combined with zinc. Dutch researchers carried out a study in which partially fertile men were put on vitamin B9 and zinc sulfate supplements for a stipulated period of time.
The outcome of the research showed that sperm quality in men with fertile issues raised by approximately 75%. Although, research points the benefits of folic acid in treating fertility problems in men, further studies are awaiting to come to a conclusion. Nevertheless, the research does pave way for usage of vitamin B9 to treat male infertility.
Effective Depression Treatment
Folic acid supplements may contribute in treating depression in both men and women effectively. Studies suggest that lack of folate has been one of the contributory factors in causing depression. Approximately 35% of the patients suffering from depression show low folic acid levels.
With poor concentration of vitamin B9, prescribed medicines like antidepressants will have little positive impact on the patient. In such circumstances, increasing vitamin B9 can be instrumental in making prescribed medicines effective in treating depression.
Prevents Alzheimer's Disease
Taking adequate vitamin B9 through diet or in supplemental form has been linked to 55% cut in the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. In a research conducted at University of California, diet of around 570 men was monitored by the National Institute of Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging for an extensive period of time.
Approximately 55 subjects showed Alzheimer's symptoms by 60 years of age. A study conducted in 2005 revealed that men who had a minimum 400 mcg of folate or folic acid in their diet significantly lowered their chances of getting Alzheimer's disease. As vitamin B9 is primarily involved in optimal brain function, its deficiency may cause Alzheimer's' disease.
Contrary to the belief that vitamin B9 supplements are good for the heart has been busted. It is proved that vitamin B9 helps in reducing amino acid homocysteine levels in the blood. Too much of homocysteine can trigger inflammation and damage to the blood vessels, which was considered to be a factor for heart problems.
However, a new research that studied outcome of 8 controlled trials of over 35000 heart disease patients showed contradictory results. The patients were put on a specified dosage for about a year. There was around 25% drop in homocysteine levels. But, that didn't reduce heart problem risk and approximately 11% of the participants experienced a heart attack.
Quite a few studies have also found out that too much of vitamin B9 supplements or even taking it in the right dosage for years may significantly increase the chances of developing prostate cancer. So, excess consumption of supplemental form of vitamin B9 has to be avoided in order to prevent occurrence of cancer.
Though it is safe to have 1000 mcg of folic acid, the prescribed consumption is approximately 400 mcg. Short term use of supplements is often recommended to keep its side effects at bay.
All in all, vitamin B9 for men certainly sounds to be a great remedy to restore men's reproductive health. However, men need to first talk to a doctor before adding folic acid supplements to their diet. Therefore make sure that your supplemental folic acid dosage does not exceed the recommended limit.