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The last benefit of fish oil is for men only

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A Danish study finds that young people who took supplements of this type for at least 60 days had a higher sperm count

Sometimes a pill can do more for you than you think. If you are a male and you are concerned about your reproductive health, this article will interest you. Danish scientists document in new research that fish oil supplements improve semen quality.

Infertility affects approximately 15% of all couples and approximately 40% to 50% of these problems are due to male factors. In addition, a decrease in semen quality has been observed during the last 50 to 70 years due to multifactorial causes that include changes in lifestyle or exposure to chemicals with endocrine disrupting capacities.

In 2017, a review of papers published in ‘Human Reproduction’ found that a healthy diet rich in certain nutrients, such as omega 3 fatty acids, antioxidants (vitamin E and C, β-carotene, selenium, zinc, cryptoxanthin and lycopene), as well as other vitamins (D and folic acid), and low in saturated fatty acids and trans fatty acids were associated with good semen quality.

Fish, shellfish, poultry, cereals, vegetables, fruits and low-fat dairy have been found to be positively associated with various semen parameters.

The analysis

The journal ‘Jama Network’ published an investigation by Tina Kold Jensen, from the Department of Environmental Medicine at University of Southern Denmark, and her team that has been carried out with 18-years-old 1,679 Danish youth, who were asked to fill out a health, lifestyle and diet questionnaire before undergoing a physical exam and semen analysis.

Tests included information on previous or current health and genital conditions, such as inguinal hernia, varicocele, epididymitis, or having undergone a surgical procedure to treat testicular torsion. They were also asked if they had experienced a fever in the last three months.

They were also asked on whether or not they had gonorrhea or chlamydia and whether they were born with both testicles in the scrotum. Their consumption of tobacco and alcohol was also investigated each day of the week. The intake of vitamins or dietary supplements (multivitamins, fish oil supplements, vitamin C, D or other types of supplements) in the last three months was also recorded.

Compared to those who did not take these supplements, those who did for at least 60 days had a higher sperm count, a higher proportion of morphologically normal sperm cells, a higher semen volume, and a larger average testicular size. Follicle-stimulating hormone levels were found to be significantly lower, as well as luteinizing hormone levels, both indicators of better testicular function.

A dose-response effect was also found for fish oil: if the time-to-take period was longer than 60 days, men reported better testicular function than those who ingested it less frequently.

The future

In an editorial that accompanies the work, Albert Salas Huetos, of the University of Utah, acknowledges:

“Although the work has some limitations, the study is significant and insightful. In addition, it contains very interesting observational data that could affect assisted reproduction clinics if the findings are reproduced in the future with well-designed research. Despite the study, much work is still required to examine the complex association between dietary supplements and semen quality, and to determine whether such an association could help improve fertility and the results of assisted reproductive techniques. Even more important, could the described associations affect future generations and / or the health of the offspring through epigenetic modification? It will be exciting to see.”

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