Why Is There So Much DHA in the Brain, Retina and Testis? Possible Implications for Human Reproduction and the Survival of Our Species

  • Olav A. ChristophersenEmail author
Part of the Nutrition and Health book series (NH)


It is proposed that the high normal concentration of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) not only in the brain and retina, but also in the testis is an evolutionary adaptation helping to enhance the rate of electron flow through the respiratory chain in these organs because it enhances the fluidity of the inner mitochondrial membrane. This leads to reduction of the ratio between rates of reactive oxygen species and ATP production, which reduces the rate of oxidative attack on the DNA molecules especially in the mitochondria, but also in the nucleus. If this hypothesis is correct, it must be expected that DHA deficiency in the testes will lead to enhancement of the mutation rate both in mitochondrial and nuclear DNA in male germ cells. It is also possible that it may be one of the most important causes of impaired human semen quality, which is now a widespread problem in several countries. Potential evolutionary consequences are extremely severe because the natural germline mutation rate, calculated as an average for hominid and chimpanzee lineages, is already so high that it can only be compensated for by quasi-truncation selection, and seems to leave almost no safety margin before the Eigen error threshold is exceeded, leading to mutational meltdown. Actual mutation rates in human populations are only partially known, but available data suggest that they may already have exceeded the Eigen error threshold by a large factor. If this cannot be corrected before it is too late, it will mean extinction of the populations concerned and may be of the entire species Homo sapiens in a not very distant future. No effort should be spared, either from the international community of medical and other biological scientists or from governments, in order to prevent this from happening. Thus, correction of DHA deficiency in human populations all over the world should be one of the first priorities in a common effort to limit the rate of human germline cell mutations. To achieve this, it will be necessary worldwide to make new laws regulating the omega-6/omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid ratio of animal feeds, meat, offal and eggs as well as of edible fats and oils.

Key words

Anti-inflammatory Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) Fish Fatty acids Toxic heavy metals Rate of brain information processing Zinc Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) Childhood cancer 



I wish to thank my collaborator through several years, Professor Anna Haug (Norwegian University of Life Sciences) for her important contributions to the present work as well as for all inspiration and valuable discussions, Professor emeritus Tore Midtvedt and Professor emeritus John G. Ormerod for critically reviewing the manuscript, and the latter also for language corrections. I also wish to thank my wife Karen for having given me the opportunity and inspiration to think about evolutionary biology in a more than purely theoretical way. And I wish to thank God for having given me the privilege to live as a conscious human being on this marvellous planet and in this marvellous Universe, and to know from first-hand experience what it means “male and female he created them.”


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Kirsten Kramer, West ChesterOsloNorway

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