Fish Oil (Omega 3s) for Fertility
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Omega 3 fatty acids like those found in seafood, some nuts, and fish oil supplements are great for supporting overall health. Specific to fertility, omega 3s provide numerous benefits for male and female reproductive health.
For women, omega 3s have been demonstrated to support egg quality and delay ovarian aging, improve pregnancy rates, and support healthy fetal and infant development. For men, omega 3s have been shown to support healthy sperm count, motility, and morphology.
Getting an adequate amount of omega 3s through diet alone may prove difficult as most people don’t regularly consume omega 3 rich foods. As such, men and women looking to naturally improve their fertility and overall health commonly rely on fish oil or omega 3 supplements.
This article will discuss omega 3s, their importance for fertility, recommended daily levels, foods high in omega 3s, and the best fish oil supplements available.
- Omega 3s play a vital role in the structure and formation of all human cells (including eggs and sperm) and have a wide range of health benefits.
- The American Heart Association (AHA) found that the majority of the U.S. population does not meet recommended daily levels of omega 3s. The AHA recommends using supplementation in addition to food sources to meet appropriate omega 3 levels.
- Most health organizations recommend that healthy adults consume between 250-500mg of omega 3s daily, but many practitioners recommend over 2,000 mg per day to help support specific aspects of health.
- Omega 3 supplementation may help support sperm count, sperm motility, and sperm morphology.
- Omega 3s may protect against the age-related decline in female fertility and support healthy egg quality.
- Many types of Omega 3 supplements exist, but they are not all created equally. Look for purified fish oil supplements with a high concentration of omega 3s like those by Molecular Fertility.
What are Omega 3s and How do they Impact Fertility?
Omega 3s are fatty acids that are a vital source of fat and energy for our bodies. Omega 3s must be consumed through diet or supplementation as our bodies cannot naturally produce them.
Omega 3s are responsible for numerous cellular functions, and they help regulate the nervous system, blood pressure, hematic clotting, glucose tolerance, and immune/inflammatory processes.
There are three main types of omega 3 fatty acids, (1) alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), (2) eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and (3) docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). .
Omega 3s – A Part of All Cells
Omega 3s are structural components of all cellular membranes, and all cells require omega 3s to function normally. As such, omega 3s are found in and are essential to the proper functioning of sperm and egg cells.
The presence of omega 3s in sperm cell membranes has been shown to influence spermatogenesis (sperm development) significantly. Sperm from men with asthenozoospermia (low motility) and oligozoospermia (low sperm count) have lower levels of omega 3s compared to men with normal sperm parameters. This has led researchers to conclude that omega 3s are essential to sperm growth.
Omega 3s aren’t just found in men’s sperm cells, they are also found in women’s egg cells. Research indicates that omega 3s may protect against age-related decline in oocyte quality.
Omega 3s and Antioxidant Capacity
Research shows that omega 3s have a high antioxidant capacity which helps to reduce oxidative stress and resulting inflammation. Oxidative stress and inflammation significantly contribute to or cause many male and female fertility issues.
Omega 3s ability to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation is likely one of the reasons why they support sperm and egg function.
Research supports this theory as omega-3 supplementation has been shown to support higher antioxidant activity in human seminal fluid and to enhance sperm count, sperm motility, and sperm morphology.
Fish Oil and Male Fertility
As they relate to male fertility, fish oil supplements and the omega 3s that they contain have been the subject of several observational and placebo-controlled studies.
In 2019, researchers conducted a meta-analysis review of 12 observational studies measuring the correlation between omega 3 consumption and male fertility. As a result of the review, researchers concluded that omega 3 supplementation and dietary omega 3s may help to improve sperm quality for men.
In a placebo-controlled 2018 study, 60 men were split into groups given a placebo or .5g, 1g, or 2g of DHA per day. After one month, the treatment groups which received 1g or 2g of omega 3s daily saw a significant improvement in motile sperm
The 1g and 2g treatment groups saw an increase in motile sperm from 28% to 37% and from 32% to 41% respectively.
After three months, all of the DHA treatment groups (.5g, 1g, and 2g) saw improvements in the percentage of total motile sperm. As a result of the study, researchers concluded that DHA supplementation may significantly increase sperm motility and that higher dosages lead to more immediate improvement.
A 2011 placebo-controlled study found that administering 1.8g of omega-3 supplements for 32 weeks significantly improved several semen parameters.
Total sperm count improved from 38.7 million to 61.7 million, sperm concentration increased from 15.6 million per mL to 28.7 million per mL, total sperm motility went from 18.7% to 27.4%, and normal morphology from 7.4 to 12.8%.
Another placebo-controlled study found that omega 3 supplementation supported sperm DNA integrity.
It is worth noting that there have been placebo-controlled studies that have shown no effect of omega 3 supplementation on sperm health.
Fish Oil and Female Fertility
Several studies have shown that omega 3s are essential for overall female health and that supplementing omega 3s may help support healthy egg quality, delay ovarian aging, and improve pregnancy rates.
Omega 3s and Ovulation
In 2011, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) published a study indicating that women who consumed higher omega 3s were more likely to have better ovulatory patterns than women who consumed lower amounts of omega 3s. In this study, omega 3 fatty acids were also shown to positively impact reproductive hormones like follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), progesterone, and estrogen.
Omega 3s and Pregnancy/Live Birth Rates
In a study published in 2018, researchers focused on the impact of omega 3 fatty acids and pregnancy rates. They found that higher omega 3 fatty acid intake was associated with a higher probability of clinical pregnancy and live birth. In fact, each 1% increase in blood omega 3 levels resulted in an 8% increase in pregnancy and live birth rates.
Omega 3s and Combatting Age-Related Fertility Decline
As women get older, they experience an age-related decline in female fertility. Research indicates that omega 3 fatty acids may help to prolong the female reproductive lifespan.
In a study conducted in 2012, researchers measured the effect of lifelong omega 3 fatty acid intake and short-term dietary intake of omega 3s on ovarian again and oocyte quality. They found that lifelong consumption of a diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids prolongs reproductive function as a woman ages. In addition, short-term dietary supplementation with a diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids started at the time of the normal rapid age-related fertility decline (between 35 and 40 for most women) is associated with improved oocyte quality.
As a result of the study, researchers concluded that omega 3 fatty acids may help delay ovarian again and improve oocyte quality for women approaching advanced maternal age.
Other strategies for delaying ovarian aging and improving egg quality after 40 include eating a fertility diet, quitting smoking, and taking other fertility supplements.
Omega 3s During Pregnancy
Omega 3 requirements are higher for pregnant women than non-pregnant women by at least 200mg. But why?
Several studies have established that consuming omega 3 fatty acids is vital before, during, and after pregnancy.
Omega 3s have been shown to provide all of the following benefits during pregnancy :
- Fetal brain development
- Fetal retinal development
- Full term gestation
- Preventing prenatal depression
- Mental development of children of mothers who supplemented with Omega 3s during pregnancy and lactation.
Research indicates that most pregnant women do not get adequate levels of omega 3s due to dietary restrictions on seafood during pregnancy. Most clinicians recommend that pregnant women restrict seafood consumption to two times per week due to concerns regarding the adverse effects of mercury and other contaminants on the developing fetus. As such, it is recommended that women who are trying to conceive or are pregnant take fish or algal-based supplements with high purity standards to ensure adequate omega 3 levels and avoiding potential toxins.
What is the Ideal Omega 3 Level?
An exact recommended daily allowance for omega 3 fatty acids has not been established. Most health organizations recommend that healthy adults consume between 250-500mg of omega 3s daily. However, fertility specialists or medical providers who are often recommend an omega 3s dosage of over 2,000 mg daily.
The American Heart Association (AHA) reports that the majority of the U.S. population does not meet recommended daily levels of omega 3s. As such, the AHA recommends using supplementation in addition to food sources to meet appropriate omega 3 levels.
There is no established limit for the amount of Omega 3s one should consume in a day, but the FDA recommends that daily intake not exceed 3000mg. Still, many practitioners recommend higher doses.
What Factors Influence Recommended Omega 3 Levels?
One other factor to be mindful of when considering how many omega 3s you should consume daily is the amount of omega 6s you are consuming. Omega 6s are found in most processed foods, seed and vegetable oils, and more. They compete for the same enzymes as omega 3s, which are required to convert them into their biologically active forms.
Research indicates that the amount of omega 6s consumed in the typical Western diet is six times that of the amount of omega 3s. However, many dietary specialists believe that the ideal ratio of omega 6s to omega 3s is closer to 2:1.
How to Increase Omega 3 Levels
To ensure appropriate omega 3 levels, consider eating fatty fish at least twice per week and potentially supplementing with fish oil omega 3 supplements on days you’re not consuming fatty fish.
Fish Oil from Diet
The best way to ensure appropriate omega 3 levels through diet is by eating fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and herring. However, it is important to be mindful of mercury levels when eating fish, especially when consuming larger and longer-lived fish like swordfish and fresh tuna. Fish oil can also be found in seafood like oysters, caviar, cod liver oil, and other types of fish like mackerel, herring, and anchovies.
Seeds and nuts like flax seeds, chia seeds, and walnuts also contain omega 3s but primarily as ALA, which may be inferior to EPA and DHA when it comes to supporting human health and fertility.
Check out the chart below for a list of foods and their omega 3 levels:
|Serving Size||Amount of Omega 3s|
|Mackerel||100 grams||5,134 mg|
|Salmon||100 grams||2,260 mg|
|Herring||100 grams||2,366 mg|
|Sardines||100 grams||1,480 mg|
|Oysters||100 grams||435 mg|
|Flax Seeds||10.3 grams||2,350 mg|
|Chia Seeds||28 grams||5,060 mg|
|Walnuts||28 grams||2,570 mg|
Data provided by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Fish Oil and Omega 3 Supplements
Many studies support the efficacy of omega 3 supplementation in addition to a healthy diet to support both male fertility and female fertility. Supplements are a great way to ensure appropriate omega 3 levels for vegetarians, vegans and those individuals who don’t eat fish regularly. Taking fish oil or omega 3 supplements also decreases (depending on the brand of supplements) your chance of exposure to toxins and contaminants found in some fish.
Concentrated omega 3 supplements also have higher levels of omega 3s and very low amount of omega 6s. This can help to balance the ratio of omega 3s to omega 6s which has been shown to have a significant impact on overall and fertility health.
From a quick search on the web or by taking a trip to your local supplement store, you’ll see many fertility supplements, fish oil, and omega 3 supplements available.
Choosing a Fish Oil (Omega 3) Supplement
At CNY Fertility, we recommend Molecular Fertility Supplements to all of our patients. Molecular Fertility offers two supplements containing Omega 3s, VIVOMEGA™ FISH OIL and Vegan Omega 3 Algal Oil. Both supplements are designed to support healthy sperm motility, structure, and function, egg quality, fetal development, and overall health.
One serving of Molecular Fertility’s VIVOMEGA™ FISH OIL delivers 6 times the omega 3s (over 2,000 milligrams per serving) found in typical over-the-counter fish oil supplements. VIVOMEGA™ FISH OIL is derived from non-GMO fish and surpasses all international fish oil standards for purity, freshness, and oxidation.
For our vegetarian and vegan friends, or those just looking for a natural source of omega 3s derived from algae instead of fish, we recommend Molecular Fertility’s Vegan Omega 3 Algal Oil. Molecular Fertility’s Vegan Omega 3 Algal Oil contains over 800 mg of Omega 3s per serving and is a completely vegan/plant-based product.
The Bottom Line – Omega 3s Impact on Male Fertility and Female Fertility
Omega 3s from food and fish oil supplements have been shown to support overall health and fertility. For females, fish oil supplementation may help improve egg quality, delay ovarian aging, improve pregnancy rates, and support healthy fetal and infant development. For males, omega 3 supplementation may improve sperm count, motility, and morphology.
Fish oil is just one of many fertility supplements and male fertility supplements that can help to support a fertility diet and naturally improve your fertility.