Many young men have poor sperm quality and the underlying cause is often unknown. The health of sperm cells depends a lot on omega-3 but a large number of men lack these essential fatty acids. Fish oil supplements have been shown to improve several sperm parameters, according to a large Danish study that is published in JAMA. The scientists behind the study suggest that men may benefit from taking fish oil supplements to improve their fertility and increase the odds of successful conception. However, they also point out that it typically takes one to two months for the optimal effect to show, and you must continue taking the fish oil supplement to maintain the results.
The male reproductive organs consist of the testicles, the epididymis, the vas deferens, the prostate gland, the seminal vesicle, and the penis. The testicles produce the sperm cells that are ejaculated. A normal ejaculation delivers around 3-5 ml of semen with around 20-250 million sperm cells in each ml of seminal fluid. The number, structure, motility, and lifespan of sperm cells are determining factors for male fertility. Hormones released by the pituitary gland control the male sex hormone, testosterone, which is primarily produced in the testicles. The membranes of sperm cells contain relatively large quantities of omega-3 in the form of DHA, just like nerve cells and the cells of the eye. DHA influences the structure and motility of sperm cells and also their ability to penetrate the egg cell during the process of fertilization. DHA is that important for sperm cells that animals become infertile if they lack this essential fatty acid. Fish oil contains large amounts of DHA and EPA is therefore a better source than plant oils, from which you get omega-3 in the form of ALA that must be converted.
Fish oil improves sperm cells and fertility
Involuntary infertility affects around 15 percent of all couples. In 40-50 percent of cases, the problem is caused by poor sperm quality.
1,679 young, Danish men took part in the study that was carried out by scientists at Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen. The scientists looked at the men’s diets, stimulant use, and use of food supplements. It turned out that 98 of the participants (5.8%) had taken fish oil supplements for the past three months. Fifty-three (54.1%) of the 98 participants had taken fish oil for 60 days or longer. Blood tests were taken and used to analyze their hormone balance, and the volume of their testicles was also measured. After masturbating in a confined room close to the sperm laboratory, the sperm quality of the men was analyzed using different parameters. The men received payment to participate. The scientists then compared the sperm quality of those who took fish oil and those who did not.
The results showed that
- The men that took fish had higher sperm volume compared with the control group, especially if they had taken fish oil for more than 60 days
- Those taking fish oil had larger testicles than those in the control group, especially if they had taken fish oil for more than 60 days.
- Those taking fish oil had higher levels of free testosterone in relation to LH (luteinizing hormone)
- Men that took fish oil produced more sperm cells per ml. of seminal fluid
The Danish scientists also refer to other studies that show how fish oil supplements can increase sperm cell motility. Also, fish oil has the ability to prevent DNA fragmentation, which causes such extensive damage to a sperm cell’s DNA that it is impossible for the fertilized egg to develop. In other words, a man may easily be able to produce an adequate number of sperm cells that appear to be healthy but if they have DNA damage, it may be one of the concealed reasons for his involuntary infertility.
The scientists concluded that fish oil has a positive impact on testicle size, testicular function, and sperm quality, especially if the men had taken the fish oil for more than 60 days.
In contrast, the scientists did not find that multivitamins, vitamin C, and vitamin D had a significant effect on sperm quality.
Having said that, other studies have showed that supplementation with selenium and zinc improves sperm cell health and boosts the antioxidant function that protects their DNA. It is a good idea to take selenium yeast and zinc gluconate or zinc acetate, which the body can easily absorb and utilize.
Diet and lifestyle
The Danish researchers as well as other scientists say that diet and lifestyle in general are important for fertility. Here is some good advice on how to optimize sperm quality:
Eat a healthy and balanced diet that keeps your blood sugar stable
A diet with too much sugar and fast carbohydrates steps up your insulin production. If you become insulin resistant and have chronically elevated insulin levels, it may inhibit your production of testosterone. Don’t be afraid of fat as such, but avoid getting to much omega-6 and trans-fatty acids from margarine, chips, junk-food etc.
Maintain normal body weight
Men who are overweight or underweight are statistically more likely to have poorer sperm quality than those with normal body weight. Fat cells release estrogen precursors, and too much fat in the groin area raises the temperature in the testicles, which can lower the fertility rate.
Avoid smoking – including passive smoke
Smoking impairs fertility in men and women. Sperm cells from smokers have higher levels of DNA damage. Also, smoking reduces the sperm cell’s ability to cling to the egg. Smoke, even the smoke from hookahs and campfires, generates cascades of free radicals that can damage the sensitive sperm cells and other cells by exposing them to oxidative stress.
Avoid unnecessary chemical exposure and electrosmog
There are dozens of toxins in the environment that affect our hormone balance and impair sperm quality. Some of the culprits are mercury, phthalates and certain pesticides. Stick with organic foods and buy eco-labeled products
Electrosmog from cell phone radiation, utility poles etc. may also cause problems. Also, holding your laptop computer in your lap may have a negative effect on sperm cells due to the increased temperature in the scrotum area.
Avoid unnecessary medicine
Some medical drugs have side effects that can negatively affect fertility. This is case with certain types of painkillers, drugs for treating erectile dysfunction, and anti-depressive drugs. Beware that paracetamol, ibuprofen, and acetylsalicylic acid taken for the first six months of pregnancy may increase the risk of testicle malformation and impaired fertility later in life in baby boys.
Stress may affect the hormone balance, the immune defense, and the nutrient balance, which can reduce the chances of successful conception. Both the man and the woman should generally be in good health and have the required physical and mental surplus to handle a baby.
Ananya Mandal. Fish Oil supplements could benefit testicular function in healthy men finds study. News medical Life Sciences. 2010
Mossa M Morbat et al. Effect of Selenium in Treatment of Male Infertility. Experimental Techniques in Urology and Nephrology. 2018
Ali Fallah et al. Zinc is an Essential Element for male Fertility: A review of Zn Roles in Men´s Health, Germination, Sperm Quality, and fertilization. Journal of Reproduction & Infertility. 2018
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