You’re certainly well aware by now that being overweight or obese can put you at risk for developing many diseases including diabetes, heart problems, and cancer. But what you might not think about is how it can impact your life in other ways, from shortness of breath just trying to climb a flight of stairs to experiencing joint pain on a regular basis. And now there is research that suggests another negative outcome for heavier men, which is lower sperm quality that could affect fertility significantly.
The study, which took place at the Center for Assisted Reproduction at the Krishna IVF Clinic in Visakhapatnam, India, found that obese men are more likely to have serious sperm issues such as a lower volume of semen, lower sperm counts, and lower sperm concentration.1Ramaraju, G.A.; et al. “Association between obesity and sperm quality.” Andrologia. 19 September 2017. Accessed 24 September 2017. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/and.12888/full. These results were determined based on an evaluation of the sperm of 1,285 men in India. This was performed using computer-aided sperm analysis, which employs technology to measure a variety of sperm characteristics.
Subjects who were obese, with a body mass index of 30 or greater, had a number of areas in which their sperm was far from optimal. Compared to the sperm samples of normal-weight men, the obese men were shown to have lower sperm counts and concentrations, as well as an inability of the sperm to move at a normal speed, which can hamper the sperm’s ability to travel through the fallopian tubes to reach the egg and fertilize.
In addition, the heavier participants were much more likely to have “defective” sperm. Many of these defects were in the heads of the sperm, including issues such as thin heads and pear-shaped heads. Defects to the heads of the sperm can result in motility problems or difficulty penetrating the egg.
The study was not designed to prove cause and effect, so we do not know for sure whether being obese actually damages the quality of a man’s sperm. However, a strong enough connection was established between excess weight and poor sperm health to suggest that it might be an important factor. What’s more, earlier research has produced similar conclusions, including a 2014 study at the Stanford University School of Medicine in California that found overweight men have decreased sperm count and less ejaculate volume.2Eisenberg, Michael L.; et al. “The relationship between male BMI and waist circumference on semen quality: data from the LIFE study.” Human Reproduction. 1 February 2014. Accessed 25 September 2017. http://academic.oup.com/humrep/article/29/2/193/625822/The-relationship-between-male-BMI-and-waist.
All around, this is pretty bad news for reproduction in the future. After all, obesity is a major problem in the United States, with approximately one-third of adults hitting this notorious mark. Coupled with the findings of the current study, it could mean that quite a large portion of couples trying to conceive going forward will have difficulty getting pregnant.
As if that’s not bad enough, sperm counts have been dropping for at least the past 40 years. A 2017 study at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel showed that between 1973 and 2011, sperm counts have declined a frightening 59.3 percent.3Levine, Hagai; et al. “Temporal trends in sperm count: a systematic review and meta-regression analysis.” Human Reproduction Update. 25 July 2017. Accessed 25 September 2017. http://academic.oup.com/humupd/article/doi/10.1093/humupd/dmx022/4035689/Temporal-trends-in-sperm-count-a-systematic-review. These problems appear to be occurring across the board in all men, not only those who are overweight. And while weight may certainly be part of the issue, there are other factors affecting sperm health, including environmental exposure to dioxins, organophosphate pesticides, and perfluorinated chemicals. These chemicals, all endocrine disruptors that can interfere with our hormone system, tend to be stored in fat cells, making the problem worse for those who are overweight. For a much more in-depth exploration of the many potentially damaging forces affecting reproductive health today, read Jon Barron’s article Fertility: the Canary in the Coal Mine.
In any case, to protect your health in general, and especially your fertility, your first order of business should be to shed any excess pounds and get yourself to a normal weight—or at least below the critical 30 BMI obesity marker. As you improve your diet and increase your exercise, be sure to drink more water—specifically either distilled water or water from a high quality filter that can remove impurities including endocrine disruptors. Full-body detoxing every few months can help rid your body of the many toxins that have been building up to a negative effect. And use a men’s progesterone crème that can help restore your hormonal balance and increase the health of your sperm.
|↑1||Ramaraju, G.A.; et al. “Association between obesity and sperm quality.” Andrologia. 19 September 2017. Accessed 24 September 2017. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/and.12888/full.|
|↑2||Eisenberg, Michael L.; et al. “The relationship between male BMI and waist circumference on semen quality: data from the LIFE study.” Human Reproduction. 1 February 2014. Accessed 25 September 2017. http://academic.oup.com/humrep/article/29/2/193/625822/The-relationship-between-male-BMI-and-waist.|
|↑3||Levine, Hagai; et al. “Temporal trends in sperm count: a systematic review and meta-regression analysis.” Human Reproduction Update. 25 July 2017. Accessed 25 September 2017. http://academic.oup.com/humupd/article/doi/10.1093/humupd/dmx022/4035689/Temporal-trends-in-sperm-count-a-systematic-review.|