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Obesity Kills Sperm Count
“In general you expect that men with lower sperm counts will have a greater frequency of difficulty conceiving than men with higher sperm counts, but it’s not completely straightforward,” said Dr. Jorge Chavarro, from the Harvard School of Public Health.
How well sperm move, their shape and the quality of DNA they carry matter too, Chavarro said — but previous studies have suggested some of those measures of sperm quality may be affected by obesity as well. For the new analysis, French researchers combined data from 14 studies that compared sperm count in samples of ejaculate from normal weight, overweight and obese men, as well as data from their own infertility center. About one-quarter of the combined 10,000 men had a low sperm count. In another analysis, just over 250 out of almost 7,000 men had no sperm in their ejaculate at all.
Dr. Sebastien Czernichow, from the Ambroise Pare Hospital, Boulogne-Billancourt, and colleagues calculated that compared to normal-weight men, overweight men were 11% more likely to have a low sperm count and 39% more likely to have no sperm.
Obese men, on the other hand, were 42% more likely to have a low sperm count than their normal-weight peers and 81% more likely to have sperm-free ejaculate, the researchers reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine. They proposed a number of different theories for the findings, including that male hormones may be converted into estrogen in fat tissue, affecting sperm-making down the line, or that more fat in the hips and stomach could make the scrotum too hot.
The results don’t prove that overweight and obese men will have more fertility trouble — although you wouldn’t expect men who have no sperm at all to be fertile, Chavarro said. And it’s possible that the obesity itself isn’t to blame; rather, in some men, an underlying health condition causes them to gain weight and affects their sperm. Either way, low sperm count may be linked to your body mass and talking to your doctor can help sort it all out. Researchers can’t say for sure whether heavy men could boost their sperm production by losing weight.