The Effects Of Diabetes On Sperm

Diabetes And Male Fertility

The profound effects of diabetes are very far reaching. While most diabetics are able to control the disease with proper diet, exercise, and in many cases with insulin, sometimes the disease takes a toll that goes unnoticed until a man wants to have a family. It is well documented that defective sperm DNA is one cause of male infertility, pregnancy failure and miscarriage. What is also well documented is the rapid rise in the type 2 diabetes in the adult population.

What The Research Found

Dr. Ishola Agbaje, research fellow in the Reproductive Medicine Research Group at Queen's University, Belfast, along with Professor Sheena Lewis, conducted a study of 565 sperm samples which compared the quality of DNA in sperm from men with diabetes to those without the disease. The findings indicated that approximately 52% of sperm cells from diabetic men were fragmented compared with 32% in men who do not have diabetes. There was also a higher rate of deletions of DNA in the mitochondria of the cells. Volume of semen was much lower in men with diabetes although the motility, structure and density of sperm did not differ from men without the disease.

The men studied for this research had type 1 diabetes, the kind in which the body fails to produce insulin. The more common type of diabetes is type 2, the form in which the body does not produce enough insulin or it does not respond properly to the insulin it does produce. The researchers found that regardless whether the man has type 1 or type 2 diabetes, the same DNA damage is found in the sperm.

Diabetes Is On The Rise

The disconcerting information that comes out of this study is the fact that diabetes is on the rise. It is known that both diet and obesity are key factors in the increase of type 2 diabetes, which usually takes off in adulthood. However, recent data indicates a 3% rise per year in type 1 diabetes, which starts in childhood.

Dr. Agbaje said, "Diabetes will affect many more men prior to and during their reproductive years." He added that up to one in six couples needing special help to conceive is often a result of male diabetes.

Understanding The Effects Of Diabetes On DNA

Co-author of the study, Dr. Sheena Lewis, stresses that it is not possible to know if the DNA damage caused by diabetes would affect fertility the same way DNA damage caused by smoking or other factors does. High levels of glucose in diabetic men may be a cause of fertility problems. "There are three things we need to look at - the number of men with diabetes and fertility problems, we need to look at children of diabetic fathers to see if there is an impact on their health and we need to find the exact nature of the DNA damage."

Dr. Allan Percy, senior lecturer at the University of Sheffield, said, "Although there is no significant evidence that men with diabetes are less fertile, or their children less healthy, it is of some concern that more of their sperm DNA may be damaged." He went on to say, "It would be important to understand the mechanism by which this damage occurs so that if it can be avoided we can work out how to do this."

If a man has concerns about DNA damage and he is diabetic, he should see his physician.

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