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Should Men Take Folic Acid? What the Latest Research Says
Folic acid offers several health benefits for men, but do you really need it? Find out what the latest research on the topic has to say.
Folic acid is an important B vitamin that plays a critical role in the production of red blood cells, as well as making and repairing our DNA. You may have seen folic acid supplements advertised to pregnant women, but does it provide any benefits to guys?
The answer to that largely depends on whether you’re getting enough folic acid from your diet already and whether you’re hoping to start a family soon. Even if you aren’t ready for kids yet, folic acid is vital to keeping your body running like a fine-tuned machine.
So, should men take folic acid? Based on the latest research, here is what you need to know about taking folic acid supplements:
- Folic acid is a key vitamin for men and women, and is responsible for several important bodily functions.
- Taking folic acid supplements can provide numerous health benefits for men, including improved fertility and better heart health.
- Taking too much folic acid may increase your risk of certain cancers and diseases.
What Are the Benefits of Folic Acid for Men?
Folic acid (aka, Vitamin B9) plays a crucial role in the human body by maintaining red blood cells, along with promoting the synthesis/repair of DNA and RNA. As a result, it’s important that men and women alike get enough of this vitamin in their diet.
But what are the benefits of folic acid for men, specifically? According to the latest research, here is what you stand to gain from taking a folic acid supplement:
- Fertility—Folic acid is most often in the news for its fertility-boosting effects. Though it’s typically marketed towards pregnant women, a 2002 study published in Fertility and Sterility indicated that subfertile men who took folic acid and zinc sulfate boosted their sperm counts by nearly 75 percent (see claim: “Subfertile men demonstrated a significant 74% increase in total normal sperm count…”)
- Cardiovascular Health—As guys age, heart health should be a top priority. Folic acid plays a crucial role in red blood cell production, making it an especially important vitamin in the fight against cardiovascular disease. In a 2016 meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, subjects who took folic acid supplements had a 10 percent lower risk of stroke and a four percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease (see claim: “Our meta-analysis indicated a 10% lower risk of stroke and a 4% lower risk of overall CVD with folic acid supplementation.”)
- Depression and Anxiety Disorders—Research has shown that people with folate deficiencies may be at an increased risk of depression and anxiety. Though more randomized trials are needed, a 2011 study published in Nutrition Journal did find that folic acid supplements could potentially prevent or reduce symptoms of major depression (see claim: “the use of folic acid supplements may possibly prevent or delay the onset of major depression among people with elevated depressive symptoms.”)
- Anti-Aging—If you’re worried about how to treat premature wrinkles caused by the sun, folic acid may be able to help (on top of your facial firming serum for men, that is). In a 2008 study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology researchers found that the combination of folic acid and creatine could reduce the effects of sun-damaged skin by accelerating the regeneration process in sun-damaged skin cells (see claim: “…the combination of folic acid and creatine significantly accelerates epidermal skin regeneration in vitro and in vivo.”)
What Are the Disadvantages of Taking Folic Acid?
Despite the vast benefits of folic acid supplements, they may come with an increased risk of certain cancers and diseases. For instance, a 2012 study published in BMJ Journals found a link between an increased risk of prostate cancer and men who took folic acid (see claim: “Prostate cancer was the only cancer type found to be increased after folic acid supplementation (meta-analyses of six RCTs).”)
Additionally, a 2007 study published in JAMA found a higher incidence of colorectal cancers in those taking folic acid supplements (see claim: “Folic acid was associated with higher risks of having 3 or more adenomas and of noncolorectal cancers.”)
Do Men Need to Take Folic Acid?
According to the National Institutes of Health, the recommended daily allowance of folic acid for adult men is 400 mcg. If you don’t get enough of this vitamin, you may get anemia and experience symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, irritability and shortness of breath.
However, most guys get enough folic acid in their diets through regular consumption of fortified grains, leafy greens, beans, seeds and other sources of the vitamin. Therefore, taking a folic acid supplement is usually unnecessary.
In fact, you’re likely more at risk of obtaining too much folic acid. Exceeding the recommended amount of folic acid for men can potentially have the opposite effect by blocking the mechanisms of the vitamin.
Thus, it’s important to talk with your doctor about taking folic acid—or any supplement, for that matter—before taking your health into your own hands.
Summing It All Up
Folic acid offers several important benefits for guys, but there can be too much of a good thing. If you’re concerned about not getting enough folic acid, reach for foods that clearly say “fortified” on the packaging. Otherwise, talk with your primary care doctor about getting on a folic acid supplement.