Many studies point to the genetic risks of offspring ‘created’ with an older man’s sperm. Not only do men over 40 have a hard time with infertility, but the quality of their sperm is often compromised, making genetic abnormalities more frequent. There is hope, though. A study from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that healthy increases in micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, phyto-nutrients, etc.) improved the DNA in sperm of older men.
For the research, scientists studied 80 healthy male volunteers between the ages of 22 and 80 years of age, and found that older men who consumed the most Vitamin C suffered 20 percent less sperm DNA damage compared to men older then 44 who consumed less Vitamin C. The same results were found with Vitamin E, Zinc and folate. This study gives men a new reason to make sure they eat right and get their vitamins.
“It appears that consuming more micronutrients such as vitamin C, E, folate and zinc helps turn back the clock for older men. We found that men 44 and older who consumed at least the recommended dietary allowance of certain micronutrients had sperm with a similar amount of DNA damage as the sperm of younger men.
This means that men who are at increased risk of sperm DNA damage because of advancing age can do something about it. They can make sure they get enough vitamins and micronutrients in their diets or through supplements,” says Andy Wyrobek from Berkeley Lab’s Life Sciences Division.
This study is also significant because men over 35 are having children more often that they did in the past. Previous research in the same lab found that the older a man is, the more likely he was to have an increased level of damage to his sperm DNA. This appeared as fragmentation, chromosomal rearrangements, and DNA strand damage.
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Older men are also more likely to impregnate a woman with sperm that will cause gene mutations, such as those that lead to dwarfism, for example. Just like older women, men who are aged are more likely to have offspring with chromosomal damage causing defective pregnancies or genetic defects in offspring.
Previously, researchers had no idea that a simple change in diet could so dramatically affect the health of an older man’s sperm DNA. Strangely, increasing micronutrient intake in younger men caused no significant change in sperm DNA. It is possible that younger men are able to adapt to fertility requirements without changing their diets.
Further details can be found in the online issue of the journal Fertility and Sterility, or you can learn more at Berkeley Lab.