Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for all of us, but there are some specific fish oil benefits for men that could make this nutrient extra important. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in particular are two types of omega-3 that have been shown to positively influence both physical and mental health in the male population.
Omega-3 fatty acids are like building blocks, even those found in the best fish oil supplements. They’re particularly abundant in the brain and male reproductive system, where they largely contribute to their normal function. A review published in the Journal of Men’s Health (opens in new tab) also found that eating fish regularly could bring benefits to men’s reproductive, cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems.
However, many people may struggle to get enough EPA and DHA fatty acids from seafood alone. If you can’t eat fish, or simply don’t like the taste, supplements could help you to quickly top up your intake, with many brands offering vegan-friendly omega-3 supplements derived from seaweed and algae.
Here are just some of the fish oil benefits for men.
1. Supports fertility
Fish oil compounds play an important role in male fertility. Seminal fluid needs to carry a certain amount of omega-3 fatty acids to maintain a healthy environment for sperm cells. What’s more, testicles use DHA to bind the building blocks that make up the acrosome - this is located at the tip of the sperm and contains all the enzymes that let the sperm penetrate the egg.
A review published in Human Reproductive Update (opens in new tab) has linked healthy dietary habits to improved semen condition and fecundability - this is the likelihood of a woman getting pregnant within one menstrual cycle. Regular consumption of fish, shellfish and seafood was also found to be positively associated with several indicators of sperm quality.
A study published in JAMA journal (opens in new tab) also suggested that fish oil supplements may improve fertility by affecting the functioning of testicles. Study participants with the highest consumption were reported to have a higher semen volume and total sperm count, larger testicular size, higher testosterone levels and an improved ratio of the key hormones that regulate sperm production.
“Indeed, male infertility is closely linked to chronic inflammation,” adds Yalda Alaoui, nutritionist and founder of Eat Burn Sleep (opens in new tab). Omega-3s from fish oil could therefore have an anti-inflammatory effect.
2. Boosts testosterone
Testosterone is a key male reproductive hormone responsible for many of the physical attributes specific to men. But does high testosterone really make men healthier? It appears that it can have a profound impact on men’s mental wellbeing, sense of self and their ability to succeed at work.
Testosterone also has a crucial role in the regulation of carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism. Without it, building muscle and losing body fat may be a rather difficult task. Therefore, keeping this hormone in check is important for good health. And fish oils may be a good place to start.
Emerging evidence points to the significance of seafood consumption for the sufficient synthesis of testosterone. One 2020 study published in Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids (opens in new tab) found that supplementation with fish oil may contribute to increased testosterone levels and improved glucose metabolism in overweight and obese men. Changes in testosterone levels were positively associated with the intake of EPA and DHA omega-3.
3. Improves sexual health
Erectile dysfunction affects up to one in five men (opens in new tab) globally and can be a source of severe emotional distress. Erectile dysfunction is not a disease in itself, but rather a symptom of other health issues, and is often considered to be an early sign of cardiovascular disease.
According to a study in Lipidology (opens in new tab), heart and circulation problems are tightly linked to the type and amount of fat in the diet. For this reason, scientists have been speculating that omega-3 could also have a beneficial effect on erectile function.
One study published in the Korean Academy of Medical Sciences (opens in new tab) used a specially modified rat model to show exactly how omega-3 fatty acids can improve several factors contributing to the development of erectile dysfunction. The results were promising and likely to be replicated in human subjects.
What’s more, omega-3 consumption could improve other elements of sexual health, with a study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (opens in new tab) finding that fish and seafood consumption was associated with a higher sexual intercourse frequency and higher fertility rates among couples trying to get pregnant.
“There's some promising indicators that fish oil supplementation could be beneficial for male sexual and reproductive health,” says Dr Hussain Ahmad, medical doctor and consulting doctor for Click2Pharmacy (opens in new tab). “But this is still an emerging topic with lots of research to do. My advice would be that if you're suffering from erectile dysfunction or any other problems relating to sexual health, you speak to a medical professional before supplementing with or taking anything.”
4. Promotes heart health
Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death globally, taking approximately 18 million lives each year. Men are disproportionately affected by heart disease too. In the US, cardiac conditions are responsible for nearly one in four male deaths (opens in new tab) each year.
Nutrition plays a crucial role in maintaining a strong and healthy heart. Diets rich in sugar, saturated fats and highly processed foods can increase blood pressure and the level of triglycerides in the blood, leading to poor circulation and clogged heart arteries. Diets that provide loads of fiber, micronutrients and unsaturated fatty acids tend to be beneficial for our cardiovascular health.
Eating adequate amounts of fish and seafood has also been shown to have a protective effect on heart health. A review of studies published in the Journal of Molecular Sciences (opens in new tab) demonstrated how consumption of omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA can vastly decrease the risk of developing coronary heart disease through targeting several different risk factors.
5. Supports mental health
Poor mental health is one of the leading causes (opens in new tab) of death among young and middle-aged men. In fact, suicide rates among the male population tend to be up to three times higher than females. Mental health is complex, and while there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to better psychological wellbeing, regular seafood and fish oil consumption could be a significant factor.
To start with, omega-3 DHA plays a significant role in brain development throughout early childhood. A substantial body of evidence (opens in new tab) indicates that a low intake of omega-3s increases the risk for numerous mental health issues, such as ADHD, autism and bipolar disorder.
In recent years, many behavioural scientists observed that individuals with low serum levels of omega-3 fatty acids report more suicidal tendencies and psychiatric conditions. Evidence in the Journal of Psychiatric Research (opens in new tab) suggests that ensuring a sufficient omega-3 intake could be an important component in suicide-preventing interventions.
Anna Gora is a Health Writer for Future Plc, working across Coach, Fit&Well, LiveScience, T3, TechRadar and Tom's Guide. She is a certified personal trainer, nutritionist and health coach with nearly 10 years of professional experience. Anna holds a BSc degree in Nutrition from the Warsaw University of Life Sciences, a Master’s degree in Nutrition, Physical Activity & Public Health from the University of Bristol, as well as various health coaching certificates. She is passionate about empowering people to live a healthy lifestyle and promoting the benefits of a plant-based diet.
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