Male obesity affects sperm quality

It’s official. All those pies, crisps, pints, chips and doughnuts are responsible for piling on those extra pounds! Those extra pounds are a problem when it comes to male fertility. There has been increasing evidence that male obesity has negative impact on sperm quality for a number of years. But there has been controversy about how nutrition alone might affect otherwise healthy sperm parameters.

Healthy body weight is key to increasing sperm quality

Now a new study from an international group of universities in the USA, Iran, Spain and Argentina has provided interesting research. They found that maintaining healthy body weight is key to increasing sperm quality and improving male fertility. The research team reviewed 88 studies of male fertility and obesity from around the world.

Low quality semen parameters

This study showed obesity was associated with low quality semen parameters.

These parameters included:

  • Sperm count
  • Semen volume
  • Semen concentration
  • Sperm vitality
  • Total motility – a measure of how well sperm can swim
  • Morphology -the healthy appearance of sperm cells.

The team stated, “Our systematic review results indicated that overweight and/or obesity were associated with low semen quality parameters. Overweight and/or obesity were also positively associated with high estradiol concentrations.”

Testosterone to help control sex drive

This is important because, in males, estradiol needs to stay in balance with testosterone to help control sex drive. It maintains the ability to have an erection and ensure the production of healthy sperm. The team suggests that the problem of male obesity should be tackled at an early age in males. This is because the statistics make for some grim reading:

  • In 2016 male obesity prevalence for the US was 35.5 %.
  • Male obesity prevalence in the US increased from 21.8 % in 1997 to 35.5 % in 2016
  • Male obesity in the US is growing at an average annual rate of 2.60%.

The researchers concluded, “Our results suggest that maintaining healthy body weight is important for increasing sperm quality parameters and potentially male fertility. The underweight category was likewise associated with low sperm normal morphology.”

Of course, maintaining a healthy body weight also means not being underweight, although this is clearly less of a problem in the US!

Further research is needed to understand the processes involved in the impact of obesity on healthy semen parameters. But the message is clear. Healthy weight = healthy sperm.