Womens Health

Male Fertility Gets A Boost

Omega-3 fatty acids have been presented to us as the greatest thing since ice cream. They can be used as a remedy for ADHD, arthritis, depression, high cholesterol and as a preventative measure against macular degeneration. Now you can add another benefit to the list: omega-3 fatty acids can boost male fertility!

Starring Role

University of Illinois researchers have discovered that omega-3 docosahexaenoic acid or DHA plays a starring role in male fertility. The investigators happened on this finding during the course of experiments they conducted on mice lacking the gene needed for producing an enzyme called delta-6-desaturase. Without this enzyme, mice cannot make DHA. The researchers saw that when mice lacked DHA, they were able to produce small numbers of sperm, but these were defective and incapable of fertilizing eggs. This suggests that mice lacking DHA cannot breed.

Scientists then gave the mice DHA supplements and lo and behold, the fertility of the mice was restored. This study is groundbreaking in that no one had ever attempted to show a direct link between DHA supplements and male fertility. Earlier related studies had stopped at the point where it was found that men with low sperm counts and poor sperm motility tend to have low levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

Male factor infertility has become a serious impediment for many couples hoping to conceive. Some experts state that male infertility is now the most common cause of a couple's infertility. But male infertility spans a wide variety of causes.

Competitive Swim

In some cases, there may not be sperm in the ejaculatory fluid because of a blockage or because a man is unable to produce sperm. In other cases there may be issues with sperm motility, or the ability of sperm to undertake the competitive swim to get to the egg. Sometimes there just aren't very many sperm or there are sperm, but they're defective. While all men have some percentage of abnormal sperm—as many as 70% of sperm may be defective—those men with an even higher percentage may find their fertility is impaired.

Manabu Nakamura who serves as an associate professor for the University of Illinois' department of food science and human nutrition, says that the human body creates DHA from alpha-linolenic acid dietary intake. Some sources for this substance include canola, flaxseed, and soybean oils, along with English walnuts. DHA is also found in the fattier types of coldwater fish such as sardines, tuna, and salmon.

Nakamura says that it's still early days in figuring out the ways in which omega-3 impacts on male fertility. "We’re still at the starting point in understanding the mechanisms that are involved and we need to do more research at the cellular level," said Nakamura.

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