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Omega-3 fatty acids and ovulatory function

  • S.L. Mumford
    Affiliations
    Epidemiology Branch, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Rockville, MD; Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY
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  • E.F. Schisterman
    Affiliations
    Epidemiology Branch, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Rockville, MD; Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY
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  • S. Dasharathy
    Affiliations
    Epidemiology Branch, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Rockville, MD; Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY
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  • A.Z. Pollack
    Affiliations
    Epidemiology Branch, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Rockville, MD; Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY
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  • C. Zhang
    Affiliations
    Epidemiology Branch, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Rockville, MD; Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY
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  • J. Wactawski-Wende
    Affiliations
    Epidemiology Branch, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Rockville, MD; Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY
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      Objective

      Emerging evidence suggests potential links between omega-3 fatty acids and improved fertility, hypothesized to impact reproduction via prostaglandin synthesis and steroidogenesis. Our objective was to evaluate associations between intake of omega-3s, hormonal patterns, and incident anovulation among healthy women.

      Design

      The BioCycle Study was a prospective cohort of 259 healthy premenopausal women, aged 18-44, followed for up to 2 menstrual cycles.

      Materials and Methods

      Endogenous reproductive hormones were measured up to 8 times per cycle for up to 2 cycles, and dietary intake was assessed by multiple 24-hour recalls per cycle. Nonlinear mixed models were used to compare hormonal patterns in terms of differences in overall mean levels, amplitude (i.e., lowest to highest level), and shifts in timing of peaks. Generalized linear mixed models were used to evaluate associations with ovulatory status. All models were adjusted for total energy intake, age, body mass index, race, fiber intake, and physical activity.

      Results

      Increases in omega-3 fatty acids were associated with earlier peaks of follicle-stimulating hormone, and later estrogen peaks, as well as increased amplitude of progesterone. Intake of omega-3s was not associated with differences in mean levels of reproductive hormones. Women consuming the highest quintile of omega-3s (percent of calories) were less likely to be anovulatory as compared with the lowest quintile (adjusted odds ratio (aOR) 0.36, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.18, 0.75).

      Conclusion

      These results highlight the importance of type of fat intake on reproductive hormones and anovulation among women of reproductive age. Future studies are needed to confirm these findings as simple dietary changes may have important implications to improve fertility outcomes.