Omega-3 fatty acid in diet can make men fertile

April 13th, 2010 - 3:32 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, April 13 (IANS) The introduction of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet may help in restoring fertility in males, a new study says.
The three most nutritionally important omega-3 fatty acids are alpha-linolenic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

“In our experiment, we used ‘knockout’ mice that lacked the gene responsible for an enzyme important in making docosahexaenoic acid (DHA),” said Manabu Nakamura, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (UI-UC) associate professor of food science and human nutrition.

“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 Nakamura.

“We looked at sperm count and shape and tested the breeding success rate, and the mice lacking DHA simply were not able to breed,” said Manuel Roqueta-Rivera, UI-UC doctoral student who also worked on the study.

In the DHA-deficient knockout mice, sperm counts were extremely low. The sperm that were produced were round instead of elongated and they were unable to move well, he said.

But, when DHA was introduced into the diet, fertility was completely restored. “It was very striking. When we fed the mice DHA, all these abnormalities were prevented,” he said.

This is the first time that the importance of DHA to male fertility has been shown this directly, although some studies have suggested that male fertility patients with low sperm counts and less motile sperm tend to have low levels of this fatty acid.

Nakamura said our body must make DHA from dietary alpha-linolenic acids, the parent compound of the omega-3 fatty acid family. Vegetable oils, including soybean and canola oil, are good sources of alpha-linolenic acid.

Nakamura’s team plans to continue focusing on this omega-3’s effects on fertility. But he cautioned that there are still things they don’t understand, said an UI-UC release.

The study was published in the February issue of the Journal of Lipid Research.

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