Obese Men Likely To Suffer Infertility


Health problems related to obesity have been major issue in today’s medical world. The endless stigma that obese men usually go through in life, notwithstanding is being compounded by a greater risk of infertility. RALIAT YUSUF-AHMED writes on this disturbing trend.

Compared with men of normal weight, overweight and obese men were more likely to have low sperm count, or not have any viable sperm, researchers have found.

According to the research, this discovery strongly suggests that excess body weight affects sperm production. Obesity is more rampant in the Western world than in Africa, but more recently, the disease has crept into our society.

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. Being obese is having a body weight more than 20 per cent greater than recommended for the relevant height, and thus at risk from several serious illnesses, including diabetes and heart disease.

While there are many disadvantages associated with being obese, ranging from coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoarthritis to respiratory problems, many of which could lead to reduced life expectancy, obese or overweight men are more likely to suffer infertility due to poor sperm counts or lack of viable sperm.

Problems of obesity are more linked to men’s infertility and other sex-related issues. Among the many challenges faced by men is the low sperm count which has been identified as being closely associated with male infertility.

One research linked approximately six per cent of male within the age bracket of 15 to 50 years as having fertility problems more associated with obesity. While another research in Paris has recently revealed that men who are overweight or obese are at a greater risk of infertility compared with men of normal weight.

Researcher, Dr. Sébastien Czernichow, at the Ambroise Paré University Hospital in Paris and his 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 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 per cent had a low sperm count and 2.6 per cent had no viable sperm.

Among the overweight men, 25.6 per cent had a low sperm count and 4.7 per cent had no viable sperm. Of the men who were obese, 32.4 per cent had a low sperm count and 6.9 per cent 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 female hormones, the researchers stated in their conclusion.

Obesity is a worrisome condition due to the many health risks associated with it. This was the submission of Dr. Abdullahi Usman, an Abuja-based medical practitioner, who deals mainly on infertility in both men and women, when confronted with the issue.

Usman says that 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, he adds.

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, he further said.

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 it is thought to be healthy for him or her,” he noted.

In another study carried out late last year and published in an international journal for obstetricians, gynecologists and reproductive endocrinologists, “The Journal of Fertility and Sterility”, 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 counterparts.

Furthermore, it also stated 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 these 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 sperms 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, the study concluded.
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