A widening waistline may make for shrinking numbers of sperm, new research suggests.
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.
The report was published online September 19 in the journal Andrologia.
“It’s known that obese women take longer to conceive,” said lead researcher Dr. Gottumukkala Achyuta Rama Raju, from the Center 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,” Rama Raju explained.
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, Rama Raju said. For the study, Rama 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.
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 In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF), the researchers said. But the study did not prove that obesity causes sperm quality to drop.
According to Rama Raju, this is the first study of abnormal sperm in obese men based on computer-aided assessment.