Young men who take fish oil supplements have a better sperm count, according to new research published by Danish scientists writes Lorna Siggins.
The study of some 1679 young men in Denmark found fish oil supplements improve semen volume and total sperm count and make for larger testicles, suggesting that men on an oil fish-rich diet would also benefit.
The study found no such benefits among men who took other dietary supplements such as vitamin C or vitamin D.
The research led by Dr Tina Kold Jensen of Copenhagen University Hospital has been released on the JAMA Network Open journal published by the American Medical Association
The authors note that “a well-designed randomised clinical trial among unselected men is warranted”.
The authors state that many young men have poor semen quality, and supplement intake of the omega 3 fatty acid had been found to improve the quality among men with infertility.
Until this research was conducted, the association with semen quality among healthy men was unknown.
The scientists aimed to determine if “intake of omega 3 fatty acid supplements is associated with testicular function as measured by semen quality and reproductive hormone levels among healthy men”.
The cross-sectional study included young Danish men from the general population recruited between January 1st, 2012, and December 31st, 2017, at compulsory examinations to determine their fitness for military service.
“Young unselected men were approached after the examination and invited to participate in a study of reproductive function, regardless of their fitness for military service,” the authors state.
The data analysis was conducted from September 1st, 2018, to June 30th, 2019.
Some 98 men (5.8%) in the age range between 18 and 19 years reported use of fish oil supplements during the past 3 months, of whom 53 (54.1%) reported intake on 60 or more days.
The comparison with men with no supplement intake suggested intake of fish oil supplements was associated with better testicular function.
The authors note that the study did not examine the actual content of omega 3 fatty acids in the supplements.
The authors observe that infertility affects approximately 15% of all couples, and approximately 40% to 50% of these fertility issues are due to male factors. Lifestyle and behavioural changes, along with possible exposure to chemicals that disrupt endocrine, have been suggested as causes for this decline.
Fish, shellfish, other seafood, poultry, cereals, vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy, and skim milk have been found to have benefits, with fish and fish liver oil, in particular, contain essential nutrients, including retinoic acid (ie, vitamin A), that have been associated with better semen quality.
Diets rich in processed meats, soy foods, potatoes, full-fat and total dairy products, cheese, coffee, alcohol, sugar-sweetened beverages, and sweets have been associated with worse semen quality, the authors note but caution that “ it is difficult to assess whether these associations are causal”.
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