Excess weight is known to have several negative effects on your health like heart problems and diabetes. Now it seems it could affect your little swimmers as well.
A widening waistline may cause dwindling numbers of sperm, new research suggests.
A delay in conception
Indian scientists studied more than 1 200 men and found that too much extra weight was linked to a lower volume of semen, a lower sperm count and lower sperm concentration.
In addition, sperm motility (the ability to move quickly through the female reproductive tract) was poor. The sperm had other defects as well, the researchers added. Poor sperm quality can lower fertility and the chances of conception.
"It's known that obese women take longer to conceive," said lead researcher Dr Gottumukkala Achyuta Raju, from the Centre for Assisted Reproduction at the Krishna IVF Clinic, in Visakhapatnam. "This study proves that obese men are also a cause for delay in conception," he added.
"Parental obesity at conception has deleterious effects on embryo health, implantation, pregnancy and birth rates," Raju explained.
Losing weight could improve sperm quality
How obesity affects sperm quality isn't known, he pointed out.
But in continuing research, the study team is looking to see if losing weight will improve the quality of sperm.
Although that study is still in progress, early signs look good that sperm quality improves as men lose weight, Raju said.
"With the growing obesity trend, there has been a steady decline in sperm quality," Hershlag said. "The findings in this study, while not specifically related to infertility, represent a trend towards a decline that is worrisome."
Treat your body right
Recent reports have found that extreme weight loss after bariatric surgery reversed some of the sperm decline, he said.
"The message to men is don't continue to abuse your body," Hershlag said. "Comfort foods and excess alcohol are bound to make you uncomfortable and put you at a higher risk for diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, which are all life-shortening, and may also put a damper on your path to fatherhood."
For the study, Raju and his colleagues used computer-aided sperm analysis to assess the sperm of 1 285 men. Obese men, they found, had fewer sperm, a lower concentration of sperm and inability of the sperm to move at a normal speed, compared with the sperm of men of normal weight.
An obesity epidemic
Moreover, the sperm of obese men had more defects than other sperm. These defects included defects in the head of the sperm, such as thin heads and pear-shaped heads.
All of these sperm abnormalities may make it more difficult for obese men to achieve conception, either through sexual intercourse or through IVF, the researchers said. However, the study did not conclusively prove that obesity causes sperm quality to drop.
According to Raju, this is the first study of abnormal sperm in obese men based on computer-aided assessment. The report was published online in the journal Andrologia.
Computer-aided sperm analysis might be something doctors should do before IVF, he suggested.
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