Omega-3, diet and healthy sperm

man eating

According to a University of Illinois study, omega-3 fatty acids, specifically DHA, may be good for sperm health. “In our experiment, we used ‘knockout’ mice that lacked the gene responsible for an enzyme important in making docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). In the absence of DHA, male mice are basically infertile, producing few if any misshaped sperm that can’t get where they need to go,” said Manabu Nakamura, a University of Illinois associate professor of food science and human nutrition.

“We looked at sperm count, shape, and motility and tested the breeding success rate, and the mice lacking DHA simply were not able to breed,” said Manuel Roqueta-Rivera, a U of I doctoral student who assisted with the study.

In the DHA-deficient mice, sperm counts were extremely low and the ones that were found were misshaped and unable to travel. As soon as DHA was introduced back in to the diet, fertility was completely restored. “It was very striking. When we fed the mice DHA, all these abnormalities were prevented,” he said.

Although previous studies have suggested that men who experience infertility as a result of fewer and less motile sperm tend to have low levels of DHA. This is the first time that the importance of omega-3 fatty acid has been so directly linked to sperm health.

We make DHA from dietary alpha-linolenic acids, the parent compound of the omega-3 fatty acid family. Good sources of the alpha-linolenic acid are vegetable oils, including soybean and canola oil.

Research will continue to focus on this omega-3’s effects on fertility since there is still a lot to learn. “We get hints from looking at sperm in the DHA-deficient animals about what type of pathology we may be looking at and why these polyunsaturated fatty acids are important. But 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” he said.

Source: Medical News Today, University of Illinois


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