An observational study reviewing data from approximately 1700 young men found that men, who consume fish oil or omega-3 fatty acid supplements, appear to have improved semen quality possibly boosting fertility, suggesting that young men may benefit from taking this supplement.
The Danish study, published in JAMA Open Network, found that men who used fish oil supplements had an association with better testicular function along with higher semen volume and total sperm count, larger testicular size, a higher calculated free testosterone to luteinizing hormone ratio, and lower follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone levels.
The study invited and recruited young Danish men (mean age of 18.9 years) from the general population who were approached at compulsory examinations to determine their fitness for military service. Each man filled out a questionnaire, underwent a physical exam, provided a semen sample, and had blood drawn. Questions about their diet, use of vitamin or mineral supplements, lifestyle and health issues, and possible issues with their testicular health (e.g. inguinal hernias or sexually transmitted diseases) were asked.
Of these men recruited for the study, 5.8% of them had used fish oil supplements in the last 3 months and of these, 54.1% had taken the fish oil supplements for at least 60 days.
Researchers found that men who were not taking fish oil supplements, when compared to the men who were taking the supplements, had lower semen volume and had a smaller testicular size. The men who had taken fish oil supplements on fewer than 60 days for the past three months had semen volume that was 0.38 mL higher and the men taking the supplements for 60 or more days had semen volume that was 0.64 mL higher than the men not using the supplements.
Similarly, compared to men who did not take supplements, testicular size in men who consumed fish oil on fewer than 60 days was 0.8 mL larger and among those who consumed it for 60 days or more, it was 1.5 mL larger.
Also found was that men who consumed fish oil had higher numbers of sperm than men who did not take fish oil supplements. In addition, they had higher percentages of sperm that swam straight ahead, as opposed to in circles, and had a healthier shape overall.
These findings suggest that young men could benefit from adding food rich in omega-3 fatty acids or taking fish oil supplements to have a possible positive impact on semen quality and ultimately, fertility.
The reasoning for why fish oil or omega-3 fatty acids are critical for fertility and sperm health is that for proper sperm function and for improving fertilization, the composition of the sperm cell membrane is ideal if it has a rich fatty acid content. Omega-3 in the sperm membrane increases as the sperm matures. The best way for men to obtain sources of omega-3 fatty acids is either through what is found naturally in food or by taking fish oil supplements.
While there is no current recommendation for men on if or what amount of a fish oil supplement they should be taking for improving sperm quality and fertility, for now, it’s best to provide information on food sources that contain omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3 fatty acids are composed of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
DHA and EPA are found abundantly in fatty fish and this type of omega 3s seems to have the strongest health benefits. Top fish choices containing DHA and EPA are salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines, anchovies, and albacore tuna.
For individuals who don’t like fish, they can get a dose of ALA version of omega 3s from plant-based foods such as canola oil, flaxseed, walnuts, broccoli, and spinach. Another nonfish source of omega 3s is algae oil.
For now, consuming at least two fish meals of fish rich in DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids and plant sources every day of foods rich in ALA omega-3 fatty acids is a good start to obtaining this important fat that may boost a man’s fertility.