For LOW SPERM COUNT, a fish oil concentrate promotes higher omega-3 levels in seminal fluid, and thus enhances sperm health and motility. Each sperm has a natural shield of essential fats that protects it, facilitates its movement, and encourages fertilization. Sperm health is dependent on omega-3 fats and consuming ample amounts of highly absorbable omega-3 oils can boost the production of healthy sperm. By contrast, excessive saturated fats or omega-6 levels in the blood reduce the number of sperm and the proportion of them that are viable.
Sperm counts have been steadily decreasing over the last 50 years from 50 to 60 million/ml which was considered healthy in the past, to today’s “new normal” of 20 million/ml. The cause of this decline is a contentious topic, but it is apparent that dietary changes over time are clearly key to this change. While there has been recent research on the effects of chemical exposure, endocrine disruptors, and chemicals, it is well-established that sperm health is dependent on omega-3 fatty acids. Just like the human brain and eye, spermatozoa contain a significant amount of omega-3 fatty acids which determine the morphology, or form, of the sperm.
The crucial fact is that our bodies cannot make omega-3 fatty acids, so they are essential fats that we must consume to reap numerous wide-ranging benefits for optimal function of male sexual organs and many body systems. The term ‘omega-3’ refers to the chemical structure of the long-chain fat and the location of its double bonds. The human body needs omega-3 fatty acids, but we cannot produce them ourselves, and thus we need to ingest them in the richest form possible. The main food sources of omega-3 fats include oily fish in the animal kingdom such as salmon, mackerel, trout and sardines, and organic cold-pressed flaxseed oil in the vegetable kingdom. Too many people lack these essential healthy fats.
Fish oil concentrate works in several ways to boost healthy sperm count:
- It is necessary for the sperm development process
- The omega-3 fats in fish oil support normal sperm structure, known as morphology
- Also, fish oil concentrate helps the motility or swimming ability necessary for sperm to function.
- Omega-3 fatty acids allow the sperm to dissolve the ovum for successful fertilization.
While overall count is critical, it is also important that sperm have fully matured in order to function. Abnormal structure, or morphology, may account for 20 to 40% in the average specimen. If sperm have deformed heads, this hampers their ability to break through the egg’s wall during fertilization. Some spermatozoa may have multiple heads or multiple or deformed tails. A reduction in the motility of sperm is called asthenospermia. An increase in abnormal, deformed, or even dead sperm will decrease the overall count and affect fertilization.
The omega-3 fatty acid DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid, is particularly necessary for developing building blocks of the acrosome at the tip of the sperm cell. The acrosome contains enzymes that allow sperm to dissolve the walls of an ovum, to penetrate and fertilize it. Acrosomal defects make egg penetration impossible.
DHA is abundant in a fish oil concentrate; also the body can make DHA from dietary alpha-linolenic acid, the parent compound of the omega-3 fat family. DHA also enhances sperm’s fluid motility. DHA is so important, that males deprived of DHA become infertile. In human studies, DHA deficiency is a typical indicator of subfertile or infertile men. For the first time, the importance of DHA to male fertility has been shown in a 2010 study of males who lacked the gene responsible for an enzyme important in making DHA. In its absence, males were infertile and their sperm were round instead of elongated and unable to move adequately. With DHA introduced back into the diet, however, fertility was completely restored.1
One culprit in decreased fertility is an excess of omega-6 fatty acids in the body from processed foods. These levels have increased greatly due to reliance on fast foods, snacks, and baked goods which are high in omega-6 vegetable oils. In excess, omega-6 fats battle ‘good’ omega-3’s for dominance in cell structure and enzyme function. Coincidentally, men with greater amounts of omega-6 fats in their blood have more inflammation and also higher levels of luteinizing hormone. This is characteristic of primary testicular Leydig cell failure, or inability of Leydig cells to produce sperm. These men also had lower testicular volumes, indicating that omega-6 fats can injure testicular function and development.
Trans fats also impede sperm count. One 2014 study of more than 200 young, otherwise healthy men, found that those with the highest intake of trans fatty acids had a nearly 40% drop in total sperm count compared to men with the lowest intake of trans fats.2 Artificial trans fats are created during the hydrogenation process, where hydrogen is added to vegetable oil to form a semi-solid product called partially hydrogenated oil.
Omega-3 fats are an integral part of every cell membrane throughout the body, and they are required for membrane cell receptors to function. All cells are wrapped in a membrane that acts as a selective barrier to regulate passage of nutrients and waste in and out of the cell. The membrane is made of fatty acid phospholipids and cholesterol. Each new cell will try its best to form its membrane with generous and optimal amounts of omega-3 fats. If these are lacking, the membrane will include saturated or other fats. But cell membranes lacking omega-3 lipids are impaired being less fluid, and less able to function as a vital barrier. They fail at keeping electrolytes, water and vital nutrients within the cell; and they cannot efficiently communicate with other cells or fully receive regulating hormones such as testosterone or insulin. Homeostasis, that should maintain stable conditions within tissues including a man’s pelvic organs, is then compromised. For men, abundant omega-3 oils in the testicular tissues helps to improve the number of sperm produced, and the proportion of healthy and vital spermatozoa.
Omega-3 fats also support good blood flow to the pelvis, reduce inflammation, and cut the risk of tiny blood clots, all of which support ample sperm production. To encourage a healthy libido, fish oil may boost testosterone production by testicular cells, and reduce sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) which binds up free testosterone. Fish oil concentrate helps modulate androgen receptors so that they are not over-stimulated by SHBG, and also binds to SHBG, all of which leads to more stable levels of free testosterone and ultimately to higher sperm counts.
Testosterone levels slowly decline naturally as men age, but low levels can also be caused by diet, stress, obesity, and other environmental factors. Lower testosterone levels can result in changes in libido, sexual function, mood, sleep habits, and reduced sperm production as well as compromised muscle strength and tone.
We prefer to use a pure fish oil concentrate in our clinic because it gives much higher absorption of omega-3 oils than standard fish oil pills. The concentrate has no fishy after-taste, requires far fewer pills, and is therefore more economical. Because of its ultra-high absorption, more of the essential omega-3 fats enter the body than with regular whole fish oil, and so fewer capsules are needed to attain good tissue levels of omega-3 fats. Two or three fish oil concentrate capsules daily are ample; and are the equivalent of one to two tablespoons of whole fish oil, which would translate to about eight to ten regular fish oil pills! Our male patients who include a potent fish oil concentrate on a daily basis have experienced improved sperm counts and higher rates of pregnancy with their partners.
Omega-3 fish oil concentrate 1,000-2,000mg daily, with any meals, or as directed by your healthcare provider.
- Roqueta-Rivera, Manuel, et al. “Docosahexaenoic acid supplementation fully restores fertility and spermatogenesis in male delta-6 desaturase-null mice.” Journal of lipid research 51.2 (2010): 360-367.
- Chavarro, Jorge E., et al. “Trans fatty acid intake is inversely related to total sperm count in young healthy men.” Human reproduction 29.3 (2014): 429-440.
- Jensen TK, Heitmann BL, Jensen MB, Halldorsson TI, Andersson AM, Skakkebaek NE, Joensen UN, Lauritsen MP, Christiansen P, Dalgard C, et al. High dietary intake of saturated fat is associated with reduced semen quality among 701 young Danish men from the general population. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013;97:411–418.
- Attaman JA, Toth TL, Furtado J, Campos H, Hauser R, Chavarro JE. Dietary fat and semen quality among men attending a fertility clinic. Hum Reprod. 2012;27:1466–1474.
- Lenzi A, Gandini L, Maresca V, Rago R, Sgrò P, Dondero F, Picardo M. Fatty acid composition of spermatozoa and immature germ cells. Mol Hum Reprod. 2000;6:226–231.
- University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. Dietary DHA Linked to Male Fertility. ScienceDaily. January 18, 2012.
- Esmaeili, V., Shahverdi, A. H., Moghadasian, M. H. and Alizadeh, A. R. Dietary Fatty Acids Affect Semen Quality: A Review. Andrology (2015), 3: 450–461.