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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 June 17, 2021

Flaxseed Oil vs Fish Oil: Which Is Better?

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Flaxseed Oil vs Fish Oil: Which Is Better?

Both flaxseed oil and fish oil supplements are sources of Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids have so many known benefits, such as having a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, certain types of cancer, glaucoma, and stroke. This nutrient is essential for the body’s function, but our bodies are unable to produce them on their own. That’s why you should get enough Omega-3 fatty acids from outside sources as well.

In this article, I’ll discuss flaxseed oil vs fish oil and their various benefits and drawbacks to help you quickly make a more informed decision about which one of these is right for you.

Are These Supplements Safe?

According to the National Institutes of Health, side effects experienced by users of fish oil supplements, if any, are usually mild. These side effects may include unpleasant taste, bad breath, headache, and gastrointestinal symptoms. This could include symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea, or heartburn.[1]

In terms of possible medication interactions, it’s noted that fish oil supplements may interfere with medicines that many Americans take to prevent blood clotting. If you’re on one of these medications or if you have a seafood allergy, it’s important to speak with your doctor before deciding to start taking Omega-3 supplements.

Regarding the safety of flaxseed oil supplements, according to Mayo Clinic, these supplements are also generally considered to be safe. However, they report that if taken in excess and without sufficient intakes of water, users may experience various gastrointestinal symptoms. These symptoms include bloating, gas, and diarrhea.[2]

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The National Institutes of Health (NIH) also advise that these supplements should not be taken during pregnancy. This is because some studies suggest that taking flaxseed oil later in pregnancy may increase the risk of premature birth.[3]

Mayo Clinic notes that, like fish oil supplements, flaxseed oil may also have negative interactions with some medications. Specifically, it’s important to consult your doctor before starting these medications if you’re on medications to reduce blood clotting, lower blood pressure, or manage your diabetes as these may interact negatively with a flaxseed oil supplement.[4]

How Much Should You Take?

The tricky thing about these supplements is that there is no standard recommended dosage for any of them. To be safe, it is recommended that you read the label on the supplement you choose to buy and make sure to only take the recommended dosage.

Regardless of whether you’re taking a fish oil or flaxseed oil supplement, you may benefit from speaking with your primary care doctor to determine what dosage is right for you. They may be able to work with you to come up with an appropriate dosage, which may help prevent unwanted side effects.

If you are interested in researching a particular brand of Omega-3 supplement, you can use the Dietary Supplement Label Database from the National Institutes of Health.[5]

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Flaxseed Oil vs. Fish Oil

Before we get into the various benefits of Fish Oil and Flaxseed Oil supplements, it’s important to have some basic knowledge about Omega-3 fatty acids.

There are three types of Omega-3 fatty acids: Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). EPA and DHA come mainly from fish while ALA comes mainly from plant sources such as flaxseed and walnuts.[6] This means that if you choose to take a fish oil supplement, you’ll be getting DHA and EPA, and if you choose a flaxseed oil supplement, you’ll be taking ALA.

Fish Oil Benefits

Fish Oil supplements typically contain oil that has been extracted from fatty fish, such as herring, tuna, or anchovies.[7] The Omega-3 found in fish oil is very important for our heart health. It can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and blood clots.[8] It can also help to reduce high blood pressure, which is common among adults in the United States.[9]

They can also help to reduce high cholesterol and plaque formation in your arteries.[10][11] They can also help reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death, which occurs when the heart is either pumping irregularly or ineffectively, making it unable to pump blood as intended to the rest of your vital organs.[12]

These supplements may have non-cardiac benefits as well. Studies show that they can reduce your risk of glaucoma, certain cancers, and certain mental health disorders.[13][14][15]

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Some studies have also shown that including Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil in your lifestyle may lead to improved weight loss when combined with a healthful diet.[16]

Flaxseed Oil Benefits

As we’ve noted, flaxseed oil contains the third type of Omega-3 fatty acid, Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). What the body does with ALA is incredibly interesting. It actually converts it into DHA and EPA, which are the Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil.

Something important to note, however, is that the body is not all that efficient at converting ALA to DHA and EPA. This means that the benefits of ALA may not necessarily be the same as those that you would get from just taking DHA and EPA. Studies seem to be overall mixed on whether taking flaxseed oil provides the same cardiac benefits as fish oil does. Specifically, it’s unclear whether or not flaxseed oil supplementation can lower cholesterol or reduce your risk of heart disease.[17]

According to the National Institutes of Health, studies have shown that taking flaxseed may help individuals with type 2 diabetes to manage their blood sugar levels. However, it’s important to note that these findings are for flaxseed, no flaxseed oil. NIH does note that it is unclear whether flaxseed oil would provide such a benefit.[18]

One big health benefit of flaxseed oil is its possible cancer-fighting ability. Studies have shown that taking flaxseed oil can stop the growth of cancer cells as well as cause apoptosis or death of cancer cells in certain types of cancer. One study found that the types of cancer which saw benefits from flaxseed oil intakes included breast cancer, cervical cancer, leukemia, and melanoma.[19]

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Flaxseed Oil Vs Fish Oil: Which Should You Take?

When deciding whether to take flaxseed oil vs fish oil supplements, there are some important things to consider. As I’ve discussed, fish oil supplements are a great source of DHA and EPA. In contrast, flaxseed oil supplements provide ALA, which the body ends up converting back to DHA and EPA, although inefficiently.

Additionally, the benefits of fish oil seem to be more deeply studied and more overall conclusive than the benefits of flaxseed oil. Fish oil supplements have been shown to provide so many benefits, including reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, glaucoma, certain cancers, and various mental health disorders.

In contrast, the research regarding the benefits of flaxseed oil supplementation is lacking. While these supplements may have anti-cancer properties, the findings on further benefits are overall mixed.

In terms of safety, these two supplements come out relatively even. They’re both regarded as generally safe. However, both have interactions with various medications that need to be taken into consideration before starting supplementation.

If you’re trying to settle on an Omega-3 supplement, I recommend trying a fish oil supplement over a flaxseed oil supplement. Fish oil has so many proven benefits while the research on flaxseed oil is significantly less convincing. Fish oil also has the benefit of providing EPA and DHA directly, so your body does not need to do any extra work to convert it.

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If you choose to take a fish oil supplement, know that you’ll be quickly reducing your risk of various chronic diseases with overall very minimal effort on your part. As always, make sure to check with your doctor before starting any supplementation to prevent negative side effects or drug interactions.

Featured photo credit: New Food Magazine via newfoodmagazine.com

Reference

[1] National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: Omega-3 Supplements: In-Depth
[2] Mayo Clinic: Flaxseed and flaxseed oil
[3] National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: Flaxseed and Flaxseed Oil
[4] Mayo Clinic: Flaxseed and flaxseed oil
[5] National Institutes of Health: Dietary Supplement Label Database (DSLD)
[6] Harvard School of Public Health: Omega-3 Fatty Acids: An Essential Contribution
[7] Healthline: What’s the Difference Between Cod Liver Oil and Fish Oil?
[8] Cleveland Clinic: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
[9] PubMed.gov: Moderate consumption of fatty fish reduces diastolic blood pressure in overweight and obese European young adults during energy restriction
[10] ResearchGate: Omega-3 fatty acids in health and disease and growth and development
[11] PubMed.gov: Effect of omega-3 fatty acids supplementation on endothelial function: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials
[12] Mayo Clinic: Ventricular fibrillation
[13] TVST: Oral Omega-3 Supplementation Lowers Intraocular Pressure in Normotensive Adults
[14] PubMed.gov: Dietary fatty acids and colorectal cancer: a case-control study
[15] PubMed.gov: Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids for indicated prevention of psychotic disorders: a randomized, placebo-controlled trial
[16] PubMed.gov: Randomized trial of weight-loss-diets for young adults varying in fish and fish oil content
[17] Mount Sinai: Flaxseed oil
[18] NIH: Flaxseed and Flaxseed Oil
[19] NCBI: Treatment with flaxseed oil induces apoptosis in cultured malignant cells

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