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Lower Fertility In Men Linked To Diabetes and Obesity

Jul 16, 2008

It appears that not only the mother’s weight plays an important role in conceiving, but the father’s as well, as reported at the 24th annual conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology on July 9.

More exactly, Dr. Shayeb’s study suggests that obese men produced substantially less sperm than average and had higher levels of abnormalities, which can reduce chances of conceiving and boost the risk of miscarriage. The same thing happened in the case of men who were underweight.

For the study, Dr. Shayeb and colleagues analyzed 5,316 men attending Aberdeen Fertility Centre between 1990 and 2007 and identified 2,037 who had listed their body mass index. BMI is defined as a ratio of weight to height. A BMI above 30 is classed as clinically obese, a BMI between 20 and 25 is classed as normal, healthy weight, and a BMI under 20 is classed as underweight.

The analysis revealed that those having a BMI above 30 produced 60 percent less seminal fluid than men with a healthy BMI, and had 40 percent higher levels of abnormal sperm. And the more obese the men were, the bigger the problem with fertility. Also, severely underweight men had poorer sperm quality than men in the healthy weight range.

The findings of this study are not new, according to Dr. Shayeb’s sayings. “Other studies have suggested an association between male obesity and increased DNA damage in the sperm, which can be associated with reduced fertility as well.”

Moreover, Dr. Shayeb suggests that men trying to conceive “should first try to achieve an ideal body weight.”

What exactly causes DNA damage in the sperm is not clear, the lead author of the study said. There could be a number of things. Obese men appear to have different hormone levels and that could influence the production of sperm. Excessive fat in the area could overheat the testicles affecting this way the quality of sperm. Finally yet importantly, the lifestyle and diet leading to obesity could be a decisive factor when conceiving.

Nothing is yet known, but “this is an important question that needs urgent attention.”

Until the relationship between fertility and obesity is established, men are recommended to adopt a healthy lifestyle, a balanced diet and a daily exercise program in order to improve their BMI. “We are pleased to be able to add improved semen quality to the long lost of benefits that we know are the results of an optimal body weight.”

A separate study conducted by Dr. Con Mallidis from Queen’s University, Belfast concluded that diabetes may affect men’s fertility by disrupting DNA in sperm. Once DNA is damaged, the quality of the embryo decreases, making it more difficult for an embryo to implant into the womb. This leads to higher miscarriage rates.

Damaged sperm DNA is also linked to some serious childhood diseases, including cancers.

“Diabetics have a significant decrease in their ability to repair sperm DNA, and once this is damaged, it cannot be restored,” the study wrote.

Presented at the 24th annual conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology held in Barcelona on July 9.


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