Wednesday 30 November 2022

Omega-3 fatty acids: Vital nutrients for men’s health

 For functional medicine expert and two-time New York Times best-selling author Dr. Amy Myers, omega-3 fatty acids are among the most vital nutrients for men’s health. They can provide considerable benefits – the most recently discovered being a reduction in colorectal cancer risk.

Sexual health

A study published in JAMA Network Open suggests that healthy men may benefit from intake of fish oil supplements. In a cross-sectional study that included 1,679 young men in Denmark, fish oil supplements were associated with higher semen volume and total sperm count, larger testicular size, a higher calculated free testosterone to luteinizing hormone (LH) ratio and lower follicle-stimulating hormone (FHS) and LH levels after adjusting for confounders.

In the testes, LH stimulates testosterone synthesis and FSH helps in the production of sperm.

Testosterone biosynthesis is essential for the development of internal/external male genitalia, the establishment of secondary male characteristics, including facial and body hair growth and voice change, and spermatogenesis, or the production and development of mature spermatozoa.  

A study published in Mount Sinai Health System reports that high FSH levels in men may mean the testicles are not functioning correctly due to advancing age (male menopause), damage to testicles caused by alcohol abuse, chemotherapy or radiation, problems with genes (such as Klinefelter syndrome), treatment with hormones and certain tumors in the pituitary gland.


Low FSH levels in men may mean parts of the brain (the pituitary gland or hypothalamus) do not produce normal amounts of any or all of its hormones.

Males make more androgens than females, with testosterone as the most common androgen that gives men their “male characteristics.”

Reduced serum testosterone is associated with a number of metabolic and quality-of-life changes, including infertility, erectile dysfunction, obesity, osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease.  

Experts say some of the causes of androgen deficiency in males include conditions affecting the following:

  • Testes – Some conditions are present from birth. Klinefelter’s syndrome, for example, is a genetic disorder where there is an extra sex chromosome in the body’s cells. Other conditions may occur at various stages of a boy’s or a man’s life, such as undescended testes, the loss of testes due to trauma or “twisting off” of the blood supply (torsion), complications following mumps and side effects of chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
  • Pituitary gland – The presence of a benign tumor (adenoma) is the most common condition that affects the pituitary gland and leads to low testosterone levels. The tumor may interfere with pituitary gland functions or it may produce the hormone prolactin, which stops the production of gonadotropins, which are the hormones needed to signal the testes to produce testosterone.
  • Hypothalamus – Tumors or a genetic order like Kallmann’s syndrome can prevent the hypothalamus from prompting the pituitary gland to release hormones – inhibiting testosterone production by the testes. This is a rare cause of androgen deficiency.

Mental Health

Scientists have linked men’s mental disorders, such as bipolar disorder and depression, with low testosterone levels – a topic most overlooked by modern science, said Myers.

A study published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry provided strong evidence that bipolar depressive symptoms may be improved by the adjunctive use of omega-3 supplements. The evidence, however, does not support its adjunctive use in lessening mania (mental illness marked by periods of great excitement like euphoria, delusions and overactivity).

Heart health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, women and people of ethnic groups in the United States.

The build-up of fatty plaques in the arteries (atherosclerosis) is the most common cause of coronary artery disease in men.

Omega-3 fatty acids have been found to reduce triglycerides and the risk of developing an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmias), as well as slow the buildup of plaque, cholesterol and calcium, which hardens and blocks arteries.

How to get more omega-3 fatty acids

Myers noted that a poor diet, lack of exercise, high blood pressure, high bad cholesterol (LDL), uncontrolled diabetes, obesity and smoking are some of the modifiable factors that increase the risk of men developing heart conditions.

Since the body does not naturally produce omega-3 fatty acids, it is important (for men, especially) to get them from heart-healthy, nutrient-dense foods like fruits (avocado, berries, mangoes, muskmelons, tomatoes), vegetables (Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach), nuts and seeds (flaxseeds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, hazelnut), dark chocolate (preferably organic), whole grains, poultry, wild-caught fatty fish (salmon) and vegetarian or vegan sources, such as seaweed (nori) and algae (chlorella, spirulina).

Men can lower the number of modifiable risk factors they have by making lifestyle changes, such as regularly engaging in aerobic activities (walking, light jogging, biking, swimming), managing their weight and relieving stress.

Health experts say the more you work out, the stronger your heart becomes. If you live a sedentary life, your heart is going to deteriorate and become weak, just like other muscles in your body.

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