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Andrology. 2015 May;3(3):450-61. doi: 10.1111/andr.12024. Epub 2015 May 7.

Dietary fatty acids affect semen quality: a review.

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Department of Embryology at Reproductive Biomedicine Research Center, Royan Institute for Reproductive Biomedicine, ACECR, Tehran, Iran.
Department of Human Nutritional Sciences, St Boniface Hospital Research Centre, University of Manitoba and Canadian Centre for Agri-food Research in Medicine, Winnipeg, MB, Canada.
Department of Animal Science, Saveh Branch, Islamic Azad University, Saveh, Iran.


Mammalian spermatozoa are characterized by a high proportion of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) which play a crucial role in fertilization. This review focuses on analysis of sperm fatty acid profiles and the effects of omega-3, saturated and trans dietary and sperm fatty acids on sperm parameters. Two major points have been pivotal points of investigation in the field of sperm fatty acid profiles: first, the comparison between fatty acid profiles of fertile and infertile men and second, the effect of dietary fatty acids on sperm fatty acid profiles as well as sperm quality and quantity. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, C22:6n-3), and palmitic acid (C16:0) are the predominant PUFA and saturated fatty acids, respectively, in human sperm cells. Higher levels of DHA are concentrated on the sperm's head or tail varying among different species. However, the human sperm head contains a higher concentration of DHA. Dietary fatty acids influence on sperm fatty acid profiles and it seems that sperm fatty acid profiles are most sensitive to dietary omega-3 PUFA. Although improvements in sperm parameters are a response to omega-3 sources after more than 4 weeks of supplementation in the male diet, time-dependent and dose-dependent responses may explain the failure in some experiments. In human spermatozoa, elevated saturated or trans fatty acid concentration and a low DHA level is a concern. The regulations of the sperm fatty acid mean melting point as well as expression regulation of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARG) alongside with spermatozoon assembly, anti-apoptosis effects, eicosanoid formation, and hormone activity are the putative key factors that induce a response by inclusion of omega-3 PUFA.


dietary fatty acids; male fertility; sperm fatty acid profiles

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