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The virtues of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation are myriad, including reduced risks for heart disease, hypertension, and certain cancers, to name just a few.  Omega-3s are also essential for optimal nervous system and cognitive development in infants.  Unfortunately, the typical American diet is severely lacking in eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the two types of omega-3s that the body can easily use.  Our generally low dietary consumption of omega-3s puts EPA and DHA at the top of my list of favorite supplements.  While it's not appropriate for everyone, especially those with bleeding disorders and people who take certain medications, omega-3 supplementation offers unique benefits to a vast majority of the population with little risk of side effects.

Just in case you weren't convinced yet, a new study has discovered another surprising positive effect of omega-3s in the diet, this time specifically for our male readers.  A group from the University of Illinois has found that DHA is imperative for the proper development of effective sperm in mice.

Mice born without the ability to produce an enzyme allowing for endogenous (within the body) synthesis of DHA proved infertile when they also were fed a diet that lacked DHA.  When their diet was then supplemented with DHA, the mice became fertile.

The researchers found that DHA is required for proper sperm maturation.  When DHA is absent, a critical part of the sperm called the acrosome is not formed correctly.  The acrosome contains enzymes that allow the sperm to penetrate the egg.  With a malformed acrosome, the sperm is unable to enter the egg and fertilization fails.

While this research is obviously too preliminary to be generalized to humans, it brings up the interesting possibility of a link between some cases of male infertility and low DHA in the diet.  It remains to be seen if the findings in mice hold up when it comes to human subjects, but I think that many of us should continue to follow this rather important story.

The abstract of the original article, published in the October 2011 issue of the journal Biology of Reproduction, can be found at http://www.biolreprod.org/content/85/4/721.abstract.

8/9/2013

EPA and DHA are an essential fatty acids which stands for docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid. People should eat more fish to get them or to use supplements.

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    Rob Bent is the founder and lead nutrition counselor at Nutrition Perfected.  He is a multi-sport athlete and works constantly to maximize sports performance through scientifically-guided nutritional optimization.

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