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. It contains two highly beneficial types of omega-3 fatty acids for many health conditions:
- 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. 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. 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. 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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
Other studies have also found positive associations between fish oil supplements and sperm quality.
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). 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:
- 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.
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.
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).
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. Another study published in Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science suggests omega-3 fatty acid DHA for vision protection.
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. Other studies also found that fish oil reduces pain and swelling, making it an effective treatment for dry eyes.
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:
- Lowering your depression
- Boosting your memory
- Preventing disease-causing inflammation with enhanced B cell activity or white blood cells
- Aiding in weight loss
- Giving you healthier skin by clearing your acne and psoriasis
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. Fish oil in high doses can cause bleeding, affect your immune system, and reduce your body’s ability to fight off infection.
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. Mercury contaminated fish meats can cause blindness, brain damage, and mental retardation in children.
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:
- 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.
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Featured photo credit: Sam Moqadam via unsplash.com