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Does Taking Fish Oil for Fertility Really Help?
If you’re trying to conceive, you’ve probably heard that taking fish oil supplements may enhance fertility. But is there any truth to this claim? Let’s take a closer look at what the research says.
What is Fish Oil?
Fish oil supplements contain omega-3 fatty acids, primarily EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). These essential fats provide a wide range of health benefits, from reducing inflammation to improving heart health.
Fatty fish like salmon and tuna are natural sources of EPA and DHA. Fish oil supplements are commonly made from anchovies, sardines, mackerel, and other oily fish.
How Might Fish Oil Support Fertility?
Here are some of the proposed ways fish oil may enhance female and male fertility:
What Does the Research Say?
Multiple studies have found correlations between omega-3 intake and improved fertility markers like menstrual cycle regularity, ovulation rates, antral follicle count, and conception rates.
For example, a 2018 review of 11 studies found omega-3 supplementation improved pregnancy rates and live birth rates in women undergoing assisted reproductive therapy like IVF. Another study in 93 women trying to conceive naturally found 2.4 grams of daily fish oil increased pregnancy rates over 3 cycles compared to a placebo.
Research also indicates supplements may aid male factor infertility. One study gave infertile men 600 mg of DHA daily for 3 months. DHA treatment improved sperm count, motility, morphology, and follicle stimulating hormone levels compared to the control group.
However, the evidence is inconsistent. Some studies reveal only weak correlations or no benefit from omega-3 supplementation. More research is still needed, especially large randomized control trials.
Potential Concerns with Fish Oil Supplements
While fish oil provides benefits, there are some potential drawbacks to consider:
Also, more isn’t necessarily better when it comes to fish oil and fertility. Excessive intakes beyond 3 grams per day do not seem to provide added conception benefits.
Getting Omega-3s from Whole Foods
While supplements offer a concentrated source of EPA and DHA, you can also boost your omega-3 intake from whole foods like:
Aim for at least two servings of fatty fish per week, along with other omega-3 whole food sources. This helps provide a steady supply of omega-3s to support fertility.
The Bottom Line on Fish Oil and Fertility
Research indicates omega-3 fatty acids may benefit fertility in both women and men. However, the extent of the benefits is unclear. For ideal fertility, focus on getting sufficient omega-3s from whole food sources like fatty fish, nuts and seeds. But taking a moderate daily fish oil supplement (1-2 grams) appears safe and may offer additional fertility perks. Along with fish oil, be sure to follow an overall healthy fertility promoting diet and lifestyle. And as always, consult your doctor before taking any new supplements.