Does Obesity Affect Sperm Quality And Quantity?
The problem of obesity has reached critical levels in some countries and is growing in India. According to a piece published by NDTV in 2014, India ranks third behind the U.S. and China, with 41 million people considered obese. The health problems associated with being overweight are many, and fertility problems are no exception.
While planning a pregnancy, women are often advised on how to change their lifestyles by reducing weight, cutting their intake on sugary &caffeinated drinks, stop smoking and drinking if they want to conceive and have a healthy pregnancy. More preference is given to the health of women when trying to conceive.The focus being less on the lifestyle choices of men, but it should be kept in mind that it takes two to conceive. The overall health of both partners must be considered for a healthy conception. Also, according to a new study, it has been found that men’s health can have a more significant effect on a couple’s chances of conceiving by adversely affecting sperm quality.
Can a man’s weight affect his fertility?
Research says that there is a connection between a man’s weight and his potential fertility. There are many emerging studies which prove that male obesity adversely impacts fertility through changes in the hormonal levels affecting sperm production which results in low sperm count. Besides, in these men sperm motility (movement: which is necessary to swim up the female reproductive tract) was also found to be poor. Due to reduced sperm motility and low sperm count, it becomes difficult for these men to conceive. If this kind of obesity trend continues then more and more men will have problems in reproducing.
How does a man’s weight affect the quality and quantity of sperm?
Fertility specialists nowadays handle cases where up to a third of couples who come to seek help in conceiving deal with male-factor infertility, and so it has become necessary for researchers to investigate that how a man’s lifestyle may affect his fertility. This topic is still not clearly understood, but specialists believe that some theories can explain how excess body fat impacts male fertility, and the theories are as below:
- Erectile Dysfunction: Obese males have higher rates of erectile dysfunction. The reason is that high blood pressure caused by obesity can affect the blood flow to the penis hence making it difficult to attain or sustain an erection.
- Increased Scrotal Temperature: Sperm production is highly sensitive to temperature, and an increase in the testicular temperature reduces sperm production and function, therefore, affecting sperm count and quality. In an obese man, the insulation of excess body fat may raise the scrotal temperature thereby causing damage to the sperm.
- Testosterone levels: Excess adipose tissues (fat) converts testosterone to oestrogen, and extra oestrogen in a man’s body can negatively impact sperm count and sperm quality. Excessive body fat and low muscle mass keeps testosterone levels below normal and increases the female hormone oestrogen leading to reduced production of sperm and semen.
- Role of fatty acids in Sperm Quality: Omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial for our health, including sperm health and quality. Studies show that men with a high BMI have a lower level of omega-3 fatty acid, mainly the beneficial omega-3 fatty acid DHA, in sperm cells than those who have a healthy weight. The beneficial fatty acids cannot enter the sperm cells, and this can lead to reduced sperm quality, affecting the sperm’s shape and motility.
Doctor’s suggestion on Obesity & Sperm Quality: Our Clinical Director Dr Sweta Gupta says that:
“In most of the couples who come to me seeking fertility treatment, I find fertility issues in the male partner. Blame it to their genetics or sedentary lifestyle nowadays more and more men are found to be overweight. Please be informed that it is not just a woman’s weight that affects fertility, but obese men are more likely to have low, or nil sperm counts. Obesity can raise body temperatures, especially the scrotal temperature and this leads to hormonal imbalances which lower sperm production. This doesn’t mean that excess weight leads to fertility troubles but having a lower sperm count can make it more difficult for men to conceive. My suggestions to these patients is that lose weight and lead a healthy lifestyle before contemplating IVF or any other fertility treatment.”
Due to obesity changes happen in sperm function and sperm molecular composition and this affects the overall quality of the sperm. Poor sperm quality can lower fertility thereby affecting the chances of conception. Semen parameters in these men were found to be altered as excess weight can be linked to a lower volume of semen, lower sperm counts and lower sperm concentration. In case both the parents are obese then parental obesity at conception can have harmful effects on the embryo health, its implantation, consequently pregnancy and birth rates. In such cases losing weight could improve sperm and egg quality.
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