Clinical study finds low omega-3 and high omega-6 levels in infertile men
An Iranian team reported last year that infertile men had lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their sperm, compared with fertile men (Safarinejad MR et al. 2009).
They made another very important discovery: the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids was significantly higher in infertile men compared to fertile controls, and men’s sperm count fell as the omega-6/omega-3 ratio rose.
That study involved 150 men and as the authors wrote, “To our knowledge, this is the first study evaluating the association of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids on semen quality …”
This adds infertility to the growing list of problems associated with the “omega imbalance” in then American diet, caused by the lack of fish or fish oil, and an excess of omega-6-rich vegetable oils (corn, soy, safflower, canola, cottonseed, sunflower).
The authors went on to note the obvious: “These results suggest that research should be performed to assess the potential benefits of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation as a therapeutic approach in infertile men.”
Mouse study sees dramatic effect from omega-3 DHA
In a related investigation, researchers from the University of Illinois used mice genetically engineered to lack DHA (Roqueta-Rivera M et al. 2010).
DHA is one of the two key omega-3 fatty acids found in fish fat and in human cell membranes … including the membranes of sperm cells.
The DHA-deficient mice were found to have fewer sperm … and more sperm abnormalities in what little sperm they did have.
“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 lead researcher Dr. Manabu Nakamura (IU 2010).
“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,” added Manuel Roqueta-Rivera, a doctoral student who also worked on the study. (IU 2010)
In the DHA-deficient mice, sperm counts were extremely low. The sperm that were produced were round instead of elongated, and were unable to move well.
When mice were fed a diet supplemented with 0.2 percent DHA, the researchers found that the fatty acid restored “… all observed impairment in male reproduction”.
As Dr. Nakamura said, “It was very striking. When we fed the mice DHA, all these abnormalities were prevented.”