Dietary supplementation with docosahexaenoic acid rich fish oil increases circulating levels of testosterone in overweight and obese men

Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2020 Dec;163:102204. doi: 10.1016/j.plefa.2020.102204. Epub 2020 Nov 12.


Pre-clinical evidence suggests that omega-3 (n-3) polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), in particular, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) have been shown to affect testosterone synthesis in males. This study is a secondary analysis of a randomized controlled trial which determined the effect of a DHA-enriched fish oil supplement on insulin resistance. The aim of the current study was to determine whether testosterone levels change in response to a DHA-enriched fish oil intervention. Overweight and obese men and women without diabetes were recruited to the study. Participants were stratified by sex and randomly allocated to intervention (860 mg DHA + 120 g EPA/day; FO) or an isocaloric control (corn oil; CO) for 12 weeks. A fasted blood sample was collected pre- and post-intervention. Fatty acid composition of erythrocyte membranes was measured using gas chromatography. Total testosterone and metabolic parameters were measured by an accredited commercial pathology laboratory. Sixty-one participants (CO/FO: n = 29/32) were included in the current analysis (male: n = 22, 36.07%). DHA-enriched fish oil supplementation increased total testosterone levels in males after adjusting for baseline levels, age and BMI. There was no treatment effect in females. Changes in testosterone levels in males were positively associated with changes to omega-3 PUFAs EPA and DHA and inversely correlated with omega-6 PUFA, arachidonic acid and dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid content in erythrocyte membranes, and was associated with beneficial changes to fasting insulin and HOMA-IR across the course of the study. DHA-enriched fish oil supplementation increases testosterone levels in overweight and obese men. Further research is warranted to substantiate these findings with a larger sample size and a longer follow-up period.

Keywords: Docosahexaenoic acid; Obesity; Omega-3; Polyunsaturated fatty acids; Randomised controlled trials; Testosterone.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / administration & dosage*
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / pharmacokinetics
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / blood*
  • Obesity / diet therapy*
  • Testosterone / blood*


  • Docosahexaenoic Acids
  • Testosterone