Can Being Overweight Affect a Man's Fertility?

While doctors have been aware of the negative impact of obesity on a woman's fertility, more recently they are discovering that the male partner's weight can also cause problems in conceiving. In fact, men who have a higher body mass index than their slimmer counterparts have a substantially higher risk of having fertility problems. Male obesity has also been shown to lower sperm count, as well as the concentration of sperm, to cause significant hormonal imbalances, to increase the temperature surrounding the scrotum, and to decrease a man's overall sex drive. Obese men can also produce sperm which has fragmented DNA-in other words, the sperm quality is greatly deteriorated and can both lessen fertility and increase the risk of miscarriage as well. A study done at Penn State showed that men who are significantly overweight commonly suffer from hormonal imbalances which lead directly to infertility. Obesity can also cause men to suffer from erectile dysfunction and libido which is lacking.

What Causes Obesity

The increasingly sedentary lifestyle and poor diet in our country has resulted in more and more overweight and obese children and adults. In fact, in 2005, statistics showed that 400 million adults were classified as being obese, and 1.6 billion as overweight. Predictions are that by 2015-a mere four years away-those numbers will jump to 2.3 billion adults being classified as overweight and 700 million as obese. In the past fifty years, there has been a corresponding decline in the overall quality of male semen, contributing negatively to couple's fertility. Some researchers believe that male sperm count is steadily decreasing by as much as 1.5% per year-a figure which has occurred in parallel with the steadily increase in obesity.

How Obesity Leads to Infertility

Obesity can affect male infertility in direct and indirect ways. Men who are significantly overweight can suffer alterations in sleep behaviors, sexual behaviors, hormonal profiles, scrotal temperatures and the quality of semen. Obesity may also cause an increase in activity of aromatase which in turn induces stress of white fatty tissue. Some scientists believe that in morbidly obese men, gastric bypass surgery and the successful management of hormones can be a helpful intervention in reversing infertility which is directly caused by obesity. Obese males may also suffer from higher than normal levels of estrogen which can change the makeup of the sperm and lead to low testosterone levels. Nearly 80% of men with type 2 diabetes are also obese, and this insulin resistance can inhibit normal sperm development, causing a decrease in fertility. Higher insulin levels inhibit sHBG in the liver; a decrease in sHBG results in more active estrogen.

Other Causes of Male Infertility

Drug use can negatively impact sperm health, most especially the use of marijuana which lowers overall sperm count and produces more abnormal sperm as well. Limiting your alcohol intake is important when you and your partner are trying to conceive; more than two drinks per day has been definitively linked to a decrease in male fertility, and can even lead to impotence. Herbal solutions such as green tea and gingko have been shown to aid in reversing male infertility-gingko does so by boosting blood circulation and improving the health of sperm, while green tea is great for improving a man's reproductive health, not to mention his overall health. If you are overweight, lose weight, by following a diet which is low in saturated and trans fats, but high in necessary vitamins and minerals. A healthy amount of sun exposure has been shown to increase levels of testosterone, resulting in healthier sperm production. However, it's important to avoid overheating of the testicles which can result from wearing pants which are too tight, wearing underpants which are too constricting, spending too much time in hot tubs or saunas, or placing a laptop directly over your genitals. Finally, find ways to reduce your stress, as stress has been shown to be a major factor in male infertility. Extreme stress in a man's life can cause impotence, which, of course, leads to fertility. In the quest to have a baby, it is important that both partners are as healthy as they can be, and if this includes losing weight, then they should make it a priority in their lives.

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