logo robotic gynaecology 1 ivf ivf monash ivf      

Obese Men Risk Higher Infertility Levels

Wed, 28/03/2012 - 12:14am | RALIAT AHMED

Obesity has become rampant in many parts of the world and is a major health concern to the society. Apart from the stigma being faced by people that are obese, men who suffer from this condition also stand a higher risk of infertility, according to a recent study. RALIAT AHMED writes on this disturbing medical condition.

A person is said to be obese when there is too much fat in the body, which could have  a negative impact or effect on the general health and wellbeing. While there are many disadvantages associated with being obese, ranging from coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoarthritis to respiratory problems, obese or overweight men are more likely to suffer infertility due to poor sperm counts or lack of viable sperm.

According to a new analysis, men who are overweight or obese are at a greater risk of   infertility compared with men of normal weight.

A researcher, Dr. Sébastien Czernichow, of Ambroise Paré University Hospital in Paris and colleagues gathered data from 14 previous studies, including about 10,000 men. The researchers looked at each participant's sperm count and body mass index (or BMI), which is a measure of body fatness and is calculated based on weight and height.

Men with a BMI of more than 25 are considered overweight, and those with a BMI of more than 30 are considered obese. They also found that among men who were normal weight, 24 percent had a low sperm count and 2.6 percent had no viable sperm.

Among the overweight men, 25.6 percent had a low sperm count and 4.7 percent had no viable sperm. Of the men who were obese, 32.4 percent had a low sperm count and 6.9 percent had no viable sperm.

These data strongly suggest that excess body weight affects sperm production because fat tissue is capable of converting male hormones such as testosterone into the female hormone, the researchers stated in their conclusion.

“Obesity is a worrisome condition because of the many health risks associated with it,” explains Dr. Abdullahi Usman, an Abuja-based medical practitioner, who deals mainly on infertility in both men and women.

According to him, obesity could impair fertility in men because increased body fat can contribute to lower testosterone levels and higher estrogen levels. Apart from these, excess fat tissue affects the metabolism of sex hormones, which in turn disrupts sperm production.

Again, when a man is obese, the excess fat tends to increase the temperature within the scrotum (the area where the sperms are produced), leading to an undesirable effect.

The medical practitioner pointed out that, there is a difference between obesity and overweight. “A person is said to be obese when there is accumulated body fat while overweight is having extra body weight from muscle, bone, fat, or water. Most often, people tend to confuse the two but they are two different things, though both terms mean that a person’s weight is higher than what is thought to be healthy for him or her,” the doctor pointed out.

In another study carried out late last year and published in the Journal of Fertility and Sterility, an international journal for obstetricians, gynecologists and reproductive endocrinologists, it was found that the quality of sperms in obese men appeared poorer, the sperm count lower and fewer `progressively motile' sperms (those that swim straight ahead than those sperms that move around without direction), compared to their thinner counter parts.

Further, it also says that semen samples were taken from 749 males for the study on infertility in couples, of which 155 men were found to be obese. These men had fewer motile sperms and even fewer rapidly moving sperm as compared to those of men who were normal or slightly overweight.

Another interesting finding in the study was that the obese men appeared to have a lower concentration of an enzyme called NAG - or Neutral Alpha-Glucosidase, secreted into the fluid of the epididymis (a part of the male reproductive system behind the testes where the sperm attain maturity and acquire motility). The concentration of NAG in the semen, normally acts as an indicator of the efficient functioning of the epididymis and this was the first indication on how obesity could have a deleterious effect on the epididymal function, concluded the study.