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The role of Omega-3 fish oils in Fertility and Conception

By Sue Bedford MSc (Nutritional Therapy)

Are you getting enough omega 3 in your diet?

Have you ever wondered why people in Japan often live the longest? or the Inuit’s in Greenland have a much lower incidence of heart disease than those living in many other countries? Well -it can be partly explained by the large amount of omega 3 that they consume.

The typical intake of omega-6 in western countries is high, and the ratio of the omega-6: omega-3 fatty acids in the UK are now thought to be greater than 10:1 and even as high as 25:1 in some adult diets. Many years ago, the omega-6: omega-3 ratio dietary intake in primitive times was closer to 1:1. Omega 6 fatty acids can become pro- inflammatory in the body, however, omega 3’s are only ever anti-inflammatory. The typical Mediterranean diet contains more omega 3 fatty acids and less omega 6 fatty acids – so a good lifestyle plan to follow. It is important not to eliminate omega 6 fatty acids but to decrease them, making sure they are balanced with the correct amount of omega 3 fatty acids.

What are the main types of omega 3 fatty acids?

There are three main omega-3 fatty acids; alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

Why are omega 3 fatty acids important in relation to fertility?

Omega 3 and female fertility

  • Increase the blood flow to the uterus
  • Regulate monthly cycles and reducing inflammation
  • During pregnancy- brain and retina development
  • May help to prevent pre-eclampsia and postnatal depression

Omega 3 and male fertility

  • Sperm membrane composition and integrity
  • Increase sperm count
  • Improve motility and morphology
  • Reduce damage to sperm DNA

Which foods are rich in omega-3 fatty acids:

  • Oily fish – anchovies, herring, sardines, salmon, trout, and mackerel
  • Spirulina
  • Oysters
  • Sardines
  • Chia
  • Walnuts
  • Eggs
  • Flaxseed
  • Fresh basil
  • Leafy dark green vegetables, such as spinach

Omega 3 rich Sweet Potato, Cod and Salmon Fish Cakes (makes around 10 medium fish cakes)

Ingredients:

  • 2 large sweet potato
  • 240g salmon fillets
  • 200g cod fillet
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 spring onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley and coriander, chopped
  • 2 organic eggs
  • 1 heaped tablespoon corn flour

How to make:

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Peel the sweet potatoes, chop them up and add them to the pan, then cover and cook until the potatoes are soft.  This will take around 20 minutes.

Mash with a little milk and butter and set aside. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a frying pan and gently cook the garlic and onions. After about a minute or two, add the fish fillets and cook well. Separate the fish into smaller bits using a fork.

Add the spring onions and cook for a further minute. Whilst the fish is cooling, crack the eggs into a bowl and mix using a fork. Pour the egg mix into the mash and combine with chopped fresh herbs. Shape into balls and flatten.  Dust the cakes lightly in cornflour and gently cook in a frying pan on both sides for a few minutes.

Enjoy with plenty of  green leafy vegetables or a large avocado salad.

Further reading:

Epping, J (2011). “Omega-3 Consumed During Pregnancy Curbs Risk For Postpartum Depression Symptoms. Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Accessed April 2014.

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