Man drinking orange juice // Man drinking orange juice - © PhotoAlto|Michele Constantini|Getty Images(© PhotoAlto|Michele Constantini|Getty Images)

When we talk about couples starting families later than in generations past, the focus is typically (and unfairly) on women's aging ovaries. But a new study made headlines last week with the findings that older fathers are more likely to pass on genetic mutations that increase the risk of autism and schizophrenia in their kids. According to the research in the journal Nature, the average child born to a 20-year-old father had 25 random mutations, whereas a 40-year-old dad passed on 65 mutations.

But here's the good news: Older men can eat their way to stronger swimmers, says Andrew Wyrobek, PhD, a senior scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. In a new study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, Dr. Wyrobek's research is among the first to show a link between what's on a man's plate and the quality of his sperm.

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Among the men studied, those age 44 and older who consumed the most daily vitamin C had 20% less sperm DNA damage than men of the same age who consumed the least amount of vitamin C. Ditto for vitamin E, folate, and zinc. And the older men with the highest micronutrient intake had sperm that was as healthy as the younger guys' swimmers.

Vitamin C is especially important to sperm since it's the number-one antioxidant secreted during ejaculation, study authors note. Folate, which is obtained through broccoli, fruit, cauliflower, cabbage, and nuts, is vital to DNA strength.

To keep sperm in tip-top shape, men should consume at least the RDA for those nutrients: 90 mg of vitamin C per day; 15 mg daily of vitamin E; 400 micrograms of folate; and 11 mg of zinc.

While more research needs to be done to see whether stronger sperm via a nutritious diet leads to healthier babies, consider the possibility just one more reason to encourage your man to eat well.

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