Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Male Reproductive System

omega 3 Fatty Acids in Male Reproductive System

High male fertility is important in the breeding of animals in order to produce viable semen for successful insemination. Quality of semen is vital for profitable livestock production through the influence of conception rate and number of progeny in a given herd. Specific fatty acids are known to target reproductive tissues and influence reproductive function and fertility.
omega 3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DPA) derived from fish oils and marine algae are essential to the performance of the male reproductive organs. They are involved in the fatty acid constitution and maintenance of semen integrity especially under cold storage or cryopreservation condition.

Studies have shown their capability to maintain sperm motility, viability and fertility during chilling and freezing including enhancing testis development and spermatogenesis in a variety livestock species.

Semen contains high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) in particular DHA and DPA which apart from providing energy also form essential components of the physical and functional structure of the cells. In most sperm cell membranes DHA is the predominant of the omega-3 fatty acids.
The fatty acid profile of spermatozoa is linked to specific functions and creates explicit characteristic fluidity and permeability necessary for it to seek and fuse with the egg during the process of fertilisation. Furthermore lipid composition of the semen cellular membrane is a key element in determining mobility characteristics, cold sensitivity, and viability including susceptibility to lipid peroxidation.

Both n-3 and n-6 are pivotal to the reproductive activity constituting 30% and 60% of the total fat respectively in the membrane of the semen. In bulls, pigs, goats and ram there is a correlation between the increase in the level of PUFA in the diet and sperm membrane with fertility.
The ram semen has 61.4%, bull semen 55.4% and boars has just 32.7% DHA of total fat. In instances where there is shortfall of carbohydrate source of energy, spermatozoa mobilises its energy from the fatty acids stored in the cell membrane.
Compared with the rams fed vegetable oil, those receiving fish oil exhibit higher testosterone concentration in blood in and gonad development. A number of studies have been conducted to determine the effect of dietary supplementation of omega 3 fatty acids on semen keeping quality and viability.

Effect of supplementation with polyunsaturated fatty acids in semen extender on sperm quality

Species Fatty Acid Percent in extender Effect
Bull Omega-3 1.0, 2.5, 5.0% Significantly improved sperm quality post-cooling and post-thawed
Bull Omega-3

and Vit E

1, 10, 100 ng/mL 0.2, 0.4 mM Changed the membrane fatty acids composition, and improved freezability of sperm. Increased DHA and the ratio of n-3 to n-6 fatty acid in sperm both before freezing and after thawing
Bull Omega-3

and Vit E

0.1, 1, 10 ng/mL 0.1, 0.2 mM Increased DHA percentage before freezing and after thawing, thereby improve cryosurvival of sperm via altering membrane lipid composition
Ram Omega-3

and Vit E

0.1, 1, 10 ng/mL

0.1, 0.2 mM

Significantly improved the in vitro characteristics of post-thawed sperm


Effect of dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids enriched fat sources on semen quality

Species Fat source Percent inclusion Effect
Ram Fish oil 3.0% Increased the proportion of DHA in sperm fatty acid composition, improved sperm concentration and motility
Ram Fish oil and Vit. C 2.5% and 300 mg/kg Improved seminal quality, increased motility, HOS and percentage of sperm with normal acrosome
Ram Fish oil and Vit. E 2.5% and 0.5% Dietary FO had significant positive effects on all sperm quality and quantity parameters compared with the control during the feeding period
Goat Fish oil and Vit. E 2.5% and 0.3 g/kg DM Improved testes development enhanced the quality and quantity of goat semen
Ram Protected fish oil 2% Increased semen concentration but no effect on other semen quality parameters including semen volume, wave motion, and progressive linear motion


Effect of dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids enriched fat sources on semen quality in pigs

Species Fat source Percent inclusion Effect
Stallion N-3 supplement


Three-fold increase in semen levels of omega-3 fatty acids, doubled sperm concentration. Increased motility progressive motility, and rapid motility of sperm cooled for 48 hours
Boars Tuna oil 30g/kg DM Levels of DHA in sperm phospholipids increased by over 8%

Overall, the proportion of spermatozoa with progressive motility and normal acrosome score increased while the share of spermatozoa with abnormal morphologies decreased.

Delivery of omega-3 fatty acids to reproductive tissues

In ruminants a major impediment to the delivery of PUFA for absorption into reproductive tissues is the ruminal biohydrogenation which alters biochemical nature and functionality of the fatty acids. The process can be extensive and often greater than 80%. Therefore great emphasis must be placed in the application of processing technologies and nutritional strategies to improve the content of omega 3 fatty acids in the reproductive organs in order for the animals to benefit from their role in enhancing fertility.

Matrix protection technique in which the matrix within which the oil is encased to ensure effective rumen protection similar to that seen when oilseeds are fed has been developed.
UFAC omega 3 supplement has been carefully formulated with marine oils and produced by the matrix protection process. It is rumen inert and delivers the essential omega 3 fatty acids downstream in the small intestine for maximum absorption and deposition in reproductive tissues.
For profitable semen production, omega 3 supplement is the product of choice.


Omega-3 Supplement

Composition Analysis Fatty Acid Profile Typical daily feed rates
Marine oil, Dry matter 95.0% C14:0 Myristic 5.3% Cattle 100-150 grams/head/day
Vegetable fibre Oil 50.0% C18:0 Stearic 3.3% Goat 10-15 grams/head/day
Clay minerals Protein 1.0% C18:1 Oleic 11.7% Sheep 10-15 grams/head/day
  Fibre 23.0% C18:2 Linoleic 4.8% Pigs Up to 10% of feed
  Ash 11.0% C18:3 Linolenic 0.7%
  ME (ME/kg DM) 25.5 C20:5 EPA 11.4%
  DE (ME/kg DM) 24.3 C22:6 DHA 16.7%



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