(Reuters Health) – Men who consume fish oil supplements that are high in omega-3 fatty acids could increase fertility, according to a new study.
After examining data from nearly 1,700 young men, the researchers found that consuming fish oil supplements was linked to higher sperm counts, larger testicles, and improved hormone levels that contribute to male fertility, according to the report published on JAMA Network Open.
While all men could benefit from adding omega-3s to their diet, the biggest impact would be in those with poor sperm quality, said study co-author Tina Kold Jensen, a professor at Rigshospitalet and the University of Southern Denmark in Odense .
That’s because these types of fatty acids are essential for fertility, Jensen said in an email.
“The composition of the high fatty acid sperm cell membrane is critical to proper sperm function,” said Jensen. “The sperm membrane plays a crucial role in the most important fertilization events. Omega-3 in the sperm membrane increases as the sperm matures and cannot be synthesized. . . in humans and must come from diet. “
To investigate the possibility that fish oil and other nutrients could affect male fertility, between January 1, 2012 and December 31, 2017, Jensen and her colleagues reached out to men undergoing physical exams as part of Danish military service procedures.
The men were invited to take part in a study of testicular function and those who signed up were given an appointment for an examination and were compensated with 500 Danish kroner (US $ 74.23).
During their appointments, the men completed a questionnaire, performed a physical exam, provided a semen sample, and had blood drawn. They were asked about diet, vitamins or supplements, lifestyle and health problems, and particularly testicular health problems such as inguinal hernias and sexually transmitted diseases.
The men were also asked about alcohol, tobacco and marijuana use, and whether their mothers smoked during pregnancy.
When Jensen and her colleagues analyzed their data, they found that men who had consumed fish oil supplements for less than 60 days in the past three months had a 0.38 ml higher semen volume than men who did not take any supplements. Men who consumed fish oil for 60 days or more during this period had a 0.64 ml higher semen volume than men who did not use the supplements.
Similarly, the testicle size was 0.8 ml larger in men who consumed fish oil for less than 60 days compared to those who did not take supplements, and 1.5 ml in men who consumed it for 60 days or more ml larger.
Men who consumed fish oil also had higher sperm counts than those who did not take the supplements. In addition, they had a higher percentage of sperm that swam in a straight line than, for example, in circles, and that were overall healthier shapes.
The new study is interesting because it looked at men from the general population who were young and healthy, said Albert Salas-Huetos, a researcher in the Department of Urology, Andrology, and IVF at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City wrote an editorial accompanying the new study.
“Since this is an observational study, it cannot be said that there is a causal relationship between fish oil supplements and testicular function,” said Salas-Huetos. “But it’s a good starting point that could encourage others to do a well-designed randomized controlled trial.”
No fish oil and fertility recommendations can be made until such a study is completed, Salas-Huetos said.
SOURCE: bit.ly/369edRv and bit.ly/2Tyg5jP JAMA Network Open, online January 17, 2020.