HealthDay News — For couples seeking infertility treatment, folic acid and zinc supplementation compared with placebo for male partners does not significantly improve semen quality or live birth rates, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Enrique F. Schisterman, PhD, from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Bethesda, Maryland, and colleagues conducted a randomized clinical trial involving 2,370 couples planning infertility treatment at four US centers. Men were randomly assigned to receive either 5 mg folic acid and 30 mg elemental zinc or placebo daily (1,185 each) for six months. Sixty-nine percent of the men had semen available for analysis six months after randomization.

The researchers observed no significant difference between the groups in live births (34 percent in the folic acid and zinc group and 35 percent in the placebo group; risk difference, −0.9 percent; 95 percent confidence interval, −4.7 to 2.8 percent). At six months after randomization, there was no significant difference between the groups in most of the semen quality parameters. Compared with placebo, there was a statistically significant increase in DNA fragmentation with folic acid and zinc supplementation (mean, 29.7 versus 27.2 percent; mean difference, 2.4 percent; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.5 to 4.4 percent). Gastrointestinal symptoms occurred more often with folic acid and zinc supplementation than with placebo.

“Our results suggest that these dietary supplements have little to no effect on fertility and may even cause mild gastrointestinal symptoms,” Schisterman said in a statement.


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One author disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry, and disclosed having a patent pending for microfluidic sperm sorting.

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