Fish oil is a common dietary supplement that is high in omega-3 fatty acids. Research suggests that they could be beneficial for health and protection from certain diseases. In addition, there may also be specific benefits for men as fish oil can help with erections and fertility.
People who eat a lot of oily fish can get enough of these fatty acids from their diet. For those who do not eat fish or who only eat fish occasionally, taking a fish oil supplement could ensure they are receiving adequate amounts.
This article examines the potential benefits of fish oil for men and the possible risks. It also suggests how people can increase their omega-3 levels.
Fish oil comes from several types of oily fish such as mackerel, tuna, and herring. Manufacturers can use many different methods to harvest fish oil. However, most techniques typically involve a four step process that involves boiling, pressing, filtering, and centrifuging the resulting oil.
Fish oils contain polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids. These are essential fatty acids that the body cannot make on its own. Two of the most well-known types of omega-3 are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
Consumption of fish oils and omega-3s can bring some health benefits and help with a number of health problems.
Fish oil can affect various areas of health and can be a useful supplement for many people. The following is a list of some of the potential benefits of fish oil for men.
Sexual health and fertility
Although not widely used, fish oil supplements can have sexual health and fertility benefits.
A 2017 animal study looked at the effects of omega-3 fatty acids and erectile dysfunction due to atherosclerosis. In this condition, blood vessels constrict, which can affect erections. Rats in the treatment group that were fed omega-3 fatty acids showed significantly improved erection quality.
It is important to note that animal studies in humans do not show the same results. However, an earlier review also shows that omega-3 could help men with erectile function.
In a 2020 study of 1,694 young male participants, those who reported using fish oil supplements had larger testicles and higher semen volume and quality.
They also had a healthier looking profile of follicle stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone. These are two key hormones that regulate sperm production.
While the study can’t conclude that the fish oil is causing the improvement, it does suggest that it may play a role.
Research suggests that people with depression may have lower levels of omega-3s in their blood. In a small study of 23 people published in Psychiatry Research, omega-3 fatty acid supplementation helped improve symptoms of depression within 3 weeks.
There are links between depression and memory problems. Supplementing DHA alone or in combination with EPA can improve memory function in some groups of adults.
While studies suggest that omega-3 supplementation may help prevent cognitive decline, especially in older adults, a 2019 review notes that more research is needed.
Heart disease causes one in four deaths in the United States each year. Heart disease is the leading killer of men in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Eating fish can have protective effects on heart health by reducing some of the risk factors for heart disease.
Triglycerides are a type of fat in the blood, and although the body needs them, too high levels can increase your risk of heart disease.
Fish oil can help reduce increased triglyceride levels and lower blood pressure. Eating fish can also help significantly lower low density lipoprotein, or “bad” cholesterol.
While many sources promote the potential cardiovascular health benefits of fish oil, clinical studies do not consistently support them. For example, an analysis published in JAMA Cardiology failed to find a clear link between fish oil and a lower risk of heart disease.
Some evidence suggests that getting enough fish oil intake may help protect eye health. A 2017 review found that fish oil may play a role in treating inflammatory eye conditions such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and dry eye conditions.
A 2019 study shows that people who regularly consume fresh fruits, vegetables, and fish are less likely to develop AMD than people who didn’t.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) recommends fish oils to help relieve dry eye symptoms. However, some evidence suggests that they have no effect. A 2018 study found no evidence that taking fish oil supplements was any more helpful than taking a placebo for dry eye.
Opticians may recommend taking omega-3 supplements or increasing fish consumption to promote eye health, although some scientific evidence suggests that fish oils are not suitable for this purpose.
Before deciding to add fish oils to their diets, people should also consider the potential risks.
While some research suggests that a diet high in omega-3s can help prevent prostate cancer, other research suggests otherwise. A 2013 study found that high fish oil intake can actually increase the risk of high-grade prostate cancer.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) note that the link between omega-3s and various cancers such as the prostate is currently unclear.
Some people can experience mild side effects when supplementing with fish oil. These can include bad taste, bad breath, diarrhea, gas, nausea, and other digestive symptoms.
The three primary omega-3 fatty acids are EPA, DHA, and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). While the first two are found in fish oil, ALA comes from vegetable oils like flaxseed, soybean, and canola oils.
ALA is an essential fatty acid, which means the body cannot make it and it must come from a food source. Although the body can convert small amounts of ALA to EPA and then to DHA, the most practical way to increase these omega-3 fatty acids is through the use of foods or supplements.
ALA is the only omega-3 that is essential, so it is the only one with a recommended adequate intake. Research suggests that men should aim for around 1.6 grams.
Both EPA and DHA do not have officially recommended daily dosages as they are not essential nutrients. However, the British Dietetic Association suggests a daily dose of around 450 mg of EPA and DHA for adults.
It can be difficult to gauge your dietary supplement intake because the amounts of fish oil can vary. For example, 1,000 mg of fish oil from one brand of supplement may contain less or more EPA and DHA than the same amount of oil from another brand.
People can get enough omega-3s by including the following foods in their diet:
- Fish and seafood, in particular sardines, tuna, mackerel, salmon and herring
- Nuts and seeds such as chia seeds and walnuts
- Vegetable oils such as flaxseed, soybean, and canola oil
- fortified foods like some types of eggs, yogurt, and soy drinks
Alternatively, people can benefit from a fish or vegetarian algae oil supplement to boost levels. Some evidence suggests that taking a fish oil supplement with a fatty meal may increase absorption.
Fish oil is rich in omega-3, an essential nutrient. Eating a diet that contains oily fish or taking a fish oil supplement can ensure that someone has an adequate amount.
Consuming more fish oil and omega-3s can provide some health benefits for men. This can include increasing fertility and improving heart health. However, men should weigh the benefits against a potentially increased risk of prostate cancer.
Anyone considering taking supplements should check with a health care provider first to make sure they are safe.