Obesity and male infertility

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Obesity and male infertility
Prof. Dr Anthony Leeds with Dr Channa Jayasena

Interview with Dr Channa Jayasena, consultant in reproductive endocrinology and andrology at Imperial College and Hammersmith Hospital, London

The recently published report from the World Health Organization gives prevalence estimates for infertility and estimates that one in six people experience infertility at some stage in their lives. Infertility may be caused by a range of factors affecting women and men.  Some causes of infertility may be treatable medically and fertility support services are available in many countries to specifically address the needs of infertile men and women.

In this episode Dr. Jayasena discusses the global problem of increasing infertility among men and the likely reasons for this.  In many countries women are tending to start families at a later age when fertility is not as good as at a younger age and the proportion of infertile couples is increasing.  The alarming global obesity pandemic may also be contributing to deteriorating fertility in men and to increasing prevalence of complications in pregnancy among women.

The team at Imperial College has just published a study of dietary interventions (both brief conventional diets and formula low energy diets) demonstrating that weight loss can improve sperm motility (impaired motility being a common problem in infertile men).  Sperm fragmentation, another feature of infertile men, was also measured and found to be reduced significantly after the weight loss with low energy formula diet (17.6kg weight loss) than after the brief conventional diet intervention (6.3kg weight loss).  Levels of the male hormone testosterone in the blood increased significantly after a greater weight loss with the low energy diet compared to the brief conventional dietary intervention.

Asked how men living in regions where there are few infertility services can help themselves to increase the chance of becoming parents Dr Jayasena indicated that it may be helpful to adopt a ‘clean-living approach’ by avoiding smoking, alcohol and recreational drugs, by choosing a healthy diet, exercising sufficiently and sleeping well.  Those who are overweight or obese may choose to lose some weight and this may be helpful.

Dr Anthony Leeds, said ‘Many obesity and body weight-related problems, such as diabetes, osteoarthritis and heart disease, are recognised as such and the importance of weight loss has been shown by good clinical trials.  This is not the case in relation to infertility in men. However, in routine practice clinicians know of cases where successful weight loss in the man has helped an infertile couple to start a family.  The clinical trial just published contributes to the idea that weight loss in the male partner should be a standard component of fertility programmes.’

Those with infertility problems should, where possible, seek guidance from medical practitioners, since several causes, some treatable, need to be considered.

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Information resources – infertility

World Health Organization

WHO Infertility Prevalence Estimates, 1990–2021

Heath Canada – infertility

UK- NHS infertility

Imperial College London Male Infertility and Weight loss Study

Could Weight Loss Improve Male Infertility in Obese Men

Government of India – infertility

Pakistan – infertility

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