Omega 3s: Can they Improve or Worsen Sperm Function and Fertility?
What are PUFAs and how do the relate to Fertility?
One of the treatments that Patients may learn about online through their own research is the use of Omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3s are a group of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). There is a large body of research investigating the impact of PUFAs on human health. In general, two of the PUFAs that are referred to are called EPA and DHA. DH, in particular, has been studied for the treatment of sperm health and infertility. DHA makes up a large portion of the cellular membrane of sperm cells. It helps to provide the cell with fluidity and flexibility. This fluidity is essential for fertilization. Therefore, DHA and PUFAs have an important role in supporting sperm health.
When might Omega 3s supplementation reduce sperm health or fertility?
However, there is research observing a decline in sperm health when they use an Omega 3 supplement as a stand alone therapy. Why the mixed results?
Omega 3s and PUFAs are vulnerable to lipid peroxidation, meaning they can lead to an increase in oxidative stress. This oxidative stress can also increase damage to the sperm cells, reducing sperm cell membrane fluidity, reducing sperm cell vitality and reducing its fertilization capacity.
The supplementation of PUFAs should ideally be paired with antioxidants. Oxidative stress is a major component of unexplained infertility and poor sperm health, and it is estimated to be a component of infertility experienced by a large portion of patients. Therefore, supplementing with PUFAs when there is preexisting elevated oxidative stress may be harmful for sperm health and fertility. It is important to help reduce oxidative stress, increase antioxidant capacity for patients in this scenario during or prior to supplementation with Omega 3s.
No single antioxidant on its own is usually recommended. Instead, antioxidants appear to work well together with a synergistic effect on fertility. It is important to always check with your licensed Naturopathic Doctor to help determine the optimal dose and combination of antioxidants in this case and to discuss if treatment with Omega 3s may or may not be beneficial in your particular case.