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Published on August 27, 2021

Should Men Take Fish Oil? 4 Fish Oil Benefits for Men

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Should Men Take Fish Oil? 4 Fish Oil Benefits for Men

Fish oil is a well-known healthy food that fits in almost any diet. Most people who want to improve their diet usually try to include fish oil in their daily consumption. But some people may ask: what are the fish oil benefits for men? Is it really good for men’s health? Or is there something fishy about fish oil?

In this article, I will take a comprehensive look at why fish oil is recommended for everyone, especially men. Let’s start with the sources of fish oil and how it could be good for your health.

Fish Oil Sources and Why It Could Be a Good Catch

Fish oil is primarily found and extracted from oily fish varieties, such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardine, herring, and trout.[1] It contains two highly beneficial types of omega-3 fatty acids for many health conditions:[2]

  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)

But here’s the catch: your human body cannot make omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. You are dependent on food sources to supplement these vital nutrients.[3] But this is not a big deal since you could consume foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as oily fish, or consume fish oil in the form of supplements.

As a side note, you can also find another type of omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) in some plant sources, such as walnuts, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, and chia seeds. You cannot find alpha-linolenic acid in fish oil, and interestingly, your body converts ALA into DHA and EPA, but in very small amounts.[4] So, if you want your Omega-3 in balance, you will have to consume DHA, EPA, and ALA via food sources or supplements or a combination of both.

Can Fish Oil Improve Your Health?

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends consuming oily or fatty cold-water fish twice a week.[5] Fish is one of the best ways to get your omega-3 fatty acids intake and reap its numerous health benefits. It is an excellent source of protein and, in comparison to other fatty meat products, it has low saturated fat.

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However, if you’re a vegetarian or do not consume fish, you can consult your doctor for dietary alternatives to fish and fish oil.

Let’s look at some of the fish oil benefits for men, though some of these benefits also apply to everyone.[6]

1. Fish Oil Can Boost Male Fertility

Various research studies have suggested that Omega-3 improves semen quality, volume, erectile function and even prevents prostate cancer.[7]

Recently, the first observational study on the association between fish oil supplementation intake and improved testicular function conducted also showed these supplements to be beneficial to men’s health.[8] The study was conducted on 1,700 young, healthy Danish men who averaged around nineteen years of age. Those who took fish oil supplements reported higher semen volume and improved sperm quality. Those who took other supplements, such as multivitamins did not show the same effects, pointing to possible links between fish oil supplements and better sperm counts.

The study’s lead researcher Tina Kold Jensen, a professor of environmental medicine at the University of Southern Denmark who has been active in this research field for over 25 years, said that these male reproductive factors should lead to improved male fertility in men taking fish oil. Jansen was also optimistic that her research findings would have the same effect on older men who take fish oil supplements.

She concluded that she recommends fish oil supplements for those who want to improve their male fertility. However, she adds that your best options are to increase your fish intake like codfish and follow your doctor’s dietary advice.

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Other studies have also found positive associations between fish oil supplements and sperm quality.[9]

While these results have certainly been encouraging, the findings from these observational studies need to be corroborated by more rigorous randomized clinical experiments. Therefore, I encourage patients to discuss their individual cases with their doctors to ensure safety and maximize benefits from fish oil supplements.

2. Fish Oil Helps Maintain a Healthy Heart

Heart disease is the leading cause of death among men, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).[10] Overall, it accounts for one in four deaths in America every year.

Fish oil is a heart-friendly nutrient as it is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. It protects your heart by reducing many of the risk factors for heart disease. Some benefits of fish oil include:[11][12][13]

  • Reduction of triglyceride levels
  • Lowering your blood pressure
  • Reducing your bad cholesterol
  • Preventing blood from clotting
  • Slowing or hindering plaque formation in your arteries
  • Reducing the risk of an abnormal heart rhythm
  • Decreasing your risk of a heart attack and stroke

There is also research that suggests that fish oil supplements reduce adverse situations, such as hospital admissions and death in people with heart failure.[14]

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that people without heart disease have at least two servings of fish every week to reduce cardiovascular events. It suggests eating a variety of cold-water, wild fish like tuna, mackerel, salmon, and sardines for their high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. The AHA does not recommend omega-3 supplements for people who don’t have a high risk for cardiovascular disease.[15]

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However, if you have heart disease, it’s best to consult your doctor before you decide to take fish oil supplements. Depending on your condition, they might recommend eating more foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and/or taking an FDA-approved fish oil supplement.

Sometimes, higher doses of omega-3 are given to lower triglycerides. But it should be strictly under the care of a doctor because it can cause complications such as bleeding and affect the immune system.

3. Fish Oil Gives You Clear and Focused Vision

The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) recommends fish oil to optimize your eye health. While there are some conflicting reports, some findings show how fish oil helps treat eye diseases like dry eye and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).[16]

A recent 2019 study supported findings that people who consumed fresh fruits, vegetables, and fish were less likely to develop eye diseases than those who did not.[17] Another study published in Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science suggests omega-3 fatty acid DHA for vision protection.[18]

Various studies have found similar findings of fewer dry eye symptoms in those who consumed fish oil. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil improved the eye’s oil film produced by meibomian glands situated on the edge of the eyelid.[19] Other studies also found that fish oil reduces pain and swelling, making it an effective treatment for dry eyes.[20]

4. Fish Oil Helps You Become Healthy From the Inside-Out

Fish oil is a versatile nutrient that seems to contribute to several other health benefits. These include:

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  • Lowering your depression[21]
  • Boosting your memory[22]
  • Preventing disease-causing inflammation with enhanced B cell activity or white blood cells[23]
  • Aiding in weight loss
  • Giving you healthier skin by clearing your acne and psoriasis[24][25][26]

Why You Need to Stay Cautious About Fish Oil

Fish oil has some possible risks associated with its consumption. Fish oil supplements have common temporary side effects, such as foul taste, smell, belching, heartburn, nosebleeds, rash, nausea, flatulence, and diarrhea.

While fish oil can prevent prostate cancer, excess consumption can increase your risk for high-grade prostate cancer.[27] Fish oil in high doses can cause bleeding, affect your immune system, and reduce your body’s ability to fight off infection.[28]

Certain combinations of medications can cause serious health risks when you take them regularly alongside fish oil. Hence, it would be best if you first discussed with your doctor about taking fish oil along with your prescribed medications.

While fish oil from the source is preferable, some fish meats are prone to mercury contamination and other toxic industrial and environmental chemicals.[29] Mercury contaminated fish meats can cause blindness, brain damage, and mental retardation in children.[30]

What’s the Verdict on Fish Oil?

The fish oil benefits for men and women far outweigh the risks, especially for middle-aged and older people who follow the recommendations by the FDA, AHA, and EPA.

Make fish oil your friend by:

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  • Choosing more from food sources than supplements.
  • Following AHA’s recommendation of eating one to two servings of non-fried fish every week.
  • Eating a variety of fish higher in EPA and DHA and lower in methylmercury to minimize potentially adverse effects due to environmental pollutants.
  • Consuming fish along with other vital aspects of a healthy diet, such as fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and whole grains that ensure balanced omega.
  • Getting your doctor’s approval and prescribed fish oil supplement and following their instructions.
  • Following the AHA’s recommendations of consuming no more than 3 grams of fish oil supplement daily, as taking more can cause bleeding.
  • Taking your fish oil supplements into two doses in the morning and night to decrease side effects.
  • Taking fish oil supplements with food to increase absorption and decrease side effects.
  • Freezing and consuming them to decrease side effects.
  • Following the US federal government’s 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendations of seafood for pregnant and nursing women. Safe fish options for pregnant and nursing women include sardines, trout, salmon, herring, and anchovies because of higher EPA and DHA and lower mercury.

On a final note, your health is in your hands. Choose wisely, and use fish oil for your health benefit today. But first, consult your doctor for medical advice before making an informed decision on fish oil and taking action.

More About the Benefits of Fish Oil

Featured photo credit: Sam Moqadam via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] National Institutes of Health: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
[2] WebMD: The Facts on Omega-3 Fatty Acids
[3] Harvard School of Public Health: Omega-3 Fatty Acids: An Essential Contribution
[4] National Institutes of Health: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
[5] American Heart Association: Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids
[6] WebMD: What to Know About Omega-3s and Fish
[7] NCBI: Prostate Cancer Risk And Omega-3 Fatty Acid Intake From Fish Oil
[8] JAMA Network: Associations of Fish Oil Supplement Use With Testicular Function in Young Men
[9] PubMed.gov: Dietary supplementation with docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) improves seminal antioxidant status and decreases sperm DNA fragmentation
[10] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Men and Heart Disease
[11] MayoClinic: Omega-3 in fish: How eating fish helps your heart
[12] Cleveland Clinic: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
[13] Harvard Health Medical School: The complicated relationship between fish oil and heart health
[14] WebMD: Fish Oil
[15] National Institutes of Health: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
[16] American Academy of Ophthalmology: The Benefits of Fish Oil for Dry Eye
[17] NCBI: Nutrients for Prevention of Macular Degeneration and Eye-Related Diseases
[18] Harvard Health Publishing: Omega-3 for your eyes
[19] Mayo Clinic: Mayo Clinic Q and A: Fish oil supplements and dry eyes
[20] WebMD: Fish Oil
[21] Translational Psychiatry: Efficacy of omega-3 PUFAs in depression: A meta-analysis
[22] WebMD: Fish Oil Supplements Boost Memory
[23] Science Daily: Nothing fishy about it: Fish oil can boost the immune system
[24] NCBI: Cosmetic and Therapeutic Applications of Fish Oil’s Fatty Acids on the Skin
[25] PubMed.gov: Effect of dietary supplementation with omega-3 fatty acid and gamma-linolenic acid on acne vulgaris: a randomized, double-blind, controlled trial
[26] Oxford Academic: Efficacy of fish oil and its components in the management of psoriasis: a systematic review of 18 randomized controlled trials
[27] NCBI: Prostate Cancer Risk And Omega-3 Fatty Acid Intake From Fish Oil
[28] Mayo Clinic: Fish Oil
[29] American Heart Association: Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids
[30] World Health Organization: Mercury and health

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Dr. Arun Villivalam

General Practitioner and Primary Care Doctor

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Published on October 19, 2021

13 Fish Oil Benefits For Women And Men

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13 Fish Oil Benefits For Women And Men

Fish oils are great sources of omega-3 and -6 fatty acids. Omega fats are essential, meaning that they can’t be synthesized in your body and have to be eaten in your diet. Omega-3 is synthesized by microalgae—not by fish—but accumulates in the tissue when they are eaten by fish and shellfish further up the food chain. Oily fish contains about 30% fat in their tissues, and this is where the omega fatty acids are found. There are many claims about omega-3 fatty acids in fish oils. But what is the evidence of the real benefits of fish oil for men and women? Can fish oils really improve your brain health, reduce your cholesterol, or help your heart?

Learn about the role of omega-3 as signaling molecules, in cell membranes, arthritis, and even eye disease. Find out the main benefits of fish oil for men and women and how to get enough.

What Are Omega Fatty Acids?

There are two types of fats or fatty acids that are essential and can’t be produced in our bodies: omega-3 and omega-6. Omega-3 can be broken down into three main forms: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Fish oils contain DHA and EPA omega fatty acids and are a good source of these essential fats.

13 Benefits of Fish Oil (Omega Fatty Acids)

There are several different health benefits of omega fatty acids. Below are the 13 most common fish oil benefits for men and women.

1. Structural Role in Cells

Omega-3 and -6 fatty acids have an important structural role, as they are needed for cell membranes. You have an estimated 724 trillion cells in your body, and that is a lot of cell membranes to keep healthy.

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2. Energy Source

Both omega-3 and -6 are sources of energy, just like any other fat source. This means they can be used alongside energy from carbohydrates to power your body, providing energy for essential functions and exercise.

3. Signaling Molecules

Omega fatty acids are used to form signaling molecules called eicosanoids, comprised of prostaglandins, thromboxanes, and leukotrienes that have extremely important functions within our bodies.

Prostaglandins

There are many different prostaglandins with wide-ranging roles, such as the sensation of pain, inflammation, regulation of pregnancy and birth, control of blood pressure, secretion of stomach acid, contraction, and relaxation of smooth muscle.

Thromboxanes

Thromboxanes regulate blood clotting by causing constriction of blood vessels and the aggregation of platelets (so they stick together), which are early steps in blood clotting.

Leukotrienes

Leukotrienes are involved in immune function by attracting immune cells, such as neutrophils, to sites of inflammation. They also constrict bronchioles in the lungs and make capillary walls permeable.

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4. Prevent Heart Diseases

Cardiovascular events are diseases related to blood vessels, such as clots, rhythm problems, and heart attacks. Studies have found that ALA may reduce the risk of cardiovascular events.[1][2]

5. Decrease Cholesterol and Triglycerides

Triglycerides are part of your cholesterol profile. Higher levels are associated with an increased risk of atherosclerosis and heart disease. Studies have found that there is an inverse relationship between omega-3 and triglyceride levels.[3] This means that an increased intake of omega-3 led to a decrease in triglycerides and that higher doses of omega-3 led to a greater effect. This effect was stronger in people who already had raised triglycerides.

One of the ways of decreasing your risk of cardiovascular disease is by lowering your cholesterol. One study found that EPA and DHA decreased triglycerides by about 15% and reduced the risk of coronary artery death and coronary events, which are illnesses of arteries supplying the heart.

6. Improve Brain Health

A grouped meta-analysis has not found any link between omega 3 and dementia, but more information is needed to see if omega-3 can prevent cognitive decline. Learn more about this here: How Fish Oil Boosts Your Mental Clarity And Brain Power

7. Help With Rheumatoid Arthritis

Omega-3 supplements have been found to benefit the clinical outcomes of rheumatoid arthritis and may even delay the need for medications.[4][5]

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8. Decrease Progression of Osteoarthritis

A large prospective study in patients with wear and tear (osteoarthritis OA) found that a higher intake of total and saturated fat was associated with an increased risk of worsening OA, whereas a higher intake of unsaturated fats was associated with decreased progression of OA measured via X-rays.[6]

The current opinion is that the metabolic products of omega-3 fatty acids are less inflammatory than those produced from omega6 fatty acids. Western diets are associated with an imbalance of omega-3 and -6 such that instead of levels of omega-3 being higher than omega-6, the reverse is more commonly seen.

9. Prevent Autoimmune Diseases

There is also limited evidence that omega-3 supplementation may benefit people with other types of autoimmune arthropathies like systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), but more research is needed.

10. Good For Eye Health

The macula is part of the retina at the back of the eye, and although it is tiny—only about 5mm across—it has a very important role in vision. It is responsible for our central vision, most of our color vision, and the fine detail of what we see. Getting enough omega-3 is linked to a reduced risk of macular degeneration, one of the world’s leading causes of permanent eye damage and blindness.[7][8]

11. Boost Your Mood

It is suggested that omega-3 may play a role in the prevention and treatment of depression. However, meta-analyses of the data have not confirmed clear benefits. Instead, more research looking at the effect of supplementing omega-3 in people with depression is needed.[9]

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12. Lower Blood Pressure

The evidence of the benefit of omega-3 fatty acids on high blood pressure (hypertension) is mixed with large-scale studies showing either no effect or a small reduction in risk of hypertension.[10][11] Omega-3 fats do have other health benefits, though. They are unlikely to do harm and are easily incorporated into your diet by eating oily fish twice a week and seeds, such as chia seeds, flaxseeds, and nuts.

13. Help With Fertility

Omega-3 appears to have a role in a healthy gamete (eggs and sperm) formation with consumption associated with increased probability of pregnancy and live birth rate.[12][13][14]

Where Are Omega Fatty Acids Found?

If you are allergic to fish or don’t eat it, how can you get enough omega-3? There are other sources of ALA is found in plant oils, such as flaxseed, soybean, and canola oils. DHA and EPA are found in oily fish, fish oils, and krill oils. DHA and EPA are synthesized by microalgae, not by the fish, but they accumulate in the tissue when they are eaten by fish and shellfish further up the food chain.

Final Thoughts

While there is evidence of the benefits for eye health, arthritis, improved cholesterol, and heart health, evidence to support the benefits of fish oil in helping high blood pressure, protecting brain health, and preventing dementia are less convincing.

Studies have found a “whole food effect” where eating oily fish appears to be more beneficial than supplementing with a fish or cod liver oil. There are also other plant-based sources of omega-3. Although some of these studies suggest that the more omega-3 the better, there is a limit to the recommended dose of supplements unless prescribed by your doctor.

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Omega-3 supplements may interfere with warfarin, due to its anti-platelet role in clotting, so it’s best to check with your doctor before starting a supplement.

Featured photo credit: Louis Hansel via unsplash.com

Reference

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