Male Infertility: Fat Men Less Likely to be Dads


MEN’S weight problems could be the reason so many couples are turning to high cost fertility treatments to conceive a child due to male infertility.

New research shows obese men are more likely to have dud sperm and suffer from male infertility that makes it difficult for them to conceive.

“Our study found that compared to men of a healthy weight, obese men were two thirds more likely to be infertile and almost three times as likely to have a non-viable pregnancy after undergoing assisted reproduction,” University of Adelaide researcher Dr Jared Campbell said.

Fifty per cent of infertility is down to the male infertility in a couple, yet very little research has been done in the area, says University of Adelaide researcher Dr Jared Campbell.

His research shows it is not the amount of semen or its motility that causes male infertility problems in obese males.

Poor quality … In male sperm that has poor DNA quality, the energy producing part of the cells aren’t as active. 

There were no statistical differences in these measures between normal weight and obese men, he says.

“We found the quality of the DNA in the sperm of obese men is poorer and the mitochondria (the power houses of cells) is not as active in the sperm of obese men,” he said.

Other research suggests it is the metabolic waste products that are higher in obese people that cause this problem in the sperm.

There is hope, however.

“Other studies have shown weight and healthy lifestyle intervention in animal models does improve fertility,” Dr Campbell says.

Heavy … Losing weight can improve the sperm quality, researchers say. Picture: News CorpSource:News Limited

“Men don’t realise they can be the solution to the problem,” he says.

“Infertile couples don’t realise that men can make some lifestyle changes that will allow their dream to come true,” he says.

This study only looked at obese men and compared them to normal weight men but other studies suggest even being overweight is enough to cause infertility problems, Dr Campbell said.

There has been a worldwide reduction in sperm quality which to date is unexplained, the research says.

It postulates that the increasing prevalence of overweight and obesity could be a factor.

Dr Campbell says the research was not conducted in a laboratory because it would be unethical to make men fat and test the effect on their fertility.

It was based on 30 observational studies involving more than 115,000 participants.

The review was published in the journal Reproductive Biomedicine Online.

Dr Michelle Lane, from the University of Adelaide’s Robinson Research Institute, says both men and women should be a healthy weight before trying to conceive a child.

“Men often get let off the hook when it comes to infertility, with women feeling at fault, but this review clearly demonstrates the importance of men’s health in reproduction and pregnancy,” says Dr Lane.

“I’d encourage both men and women to aim for a healthy weight and diet before trying to conceive a child,” she says.


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