Prospective fathers might consider taking fish-oil supplements to improve their fertility, new research suggests.
Danish researchers conducted the study into the reproductive function among over 1500 young men (aged 18-19 years) from the general population. They compared parameters such as total sperm count and motility, as well as serum hormone levels including testosterone and FSH among those men who reportedly had taken fish oil supplements regularly over the past three months with those who didn’t.
What they found was that men taking the omega-3 fatty acid supplements had higher semen volume, larger testicular size, a higher calculated free testosterone to luteinising hormone, and lower FSH and LH levels compared with men who didn’t take the supplements.
Importantly, the researchers were able to determine, courtesy of their questionnaires, that these findings could not have been caused any other supplements the young men might have been taking.
“Men with an intake of other supplements (i.e. vitamin C, vitamin D, or multivitamins) did not have significantly different semen quality or reproductive hormone profiles than men with no supplement intake,” they said in JAMA Network Open.
The other important feature of this study is that it was conducted among young men from the general population. Apparently, according to the study authors, most of the previous research involving the use of supplements to boost fertility have been conducted on men with infertility, so this augurs well for a benefit among the broader population.
Of course, this is largely an observational study. We can’t entirely rule out there may have been other factors at play. But, as an accompanying editorial points out, there is increasing evidence that diet plays an important role in male fertility.
“Dozens of observational studies have concluded that diets rich in foods such as fish, shellfish and seafood, poultry, cereals and fruits, low-fat dairy and skim milk were positively associated with several sperm quality parameters,” the editorial author wrote.
He also highlights why these findings are important.
“Human semen quality (i.e. sperm count and concentration) has declined worldwide, and this decline is greater in certain geographic regions, specifically in developed and industrialised countries.”
So while this latest study has limitations, and the findings need to be reproduced in future, well-designed randomised controlled trials, it is nonetheless “meaningful and insightful”.
While nobody is prepared, at this stage, to suggest we routinely recommend fish oil supplementation to our male patients who are hoping to father a child, that is where this is hopefully headed.
JAMA Network Open doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.19462
JAMA Network Open doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.19569
This story first appeared on www.healthed.com.au