New ways to combat obesity to improve fertility

The American Association of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) state that obesity is the cause of fertility struggles in 6% of women struggling to conceive. The reason for this is that obesity affects infertility by changing the way a woman’s body stores sex hormones.

Women aren’t the only ones impacted by obesity when it comes to infertility, as research shows that obese men are more likely to have low sperm counts.

So, when it comes to fertility, obesity is a problem. Firstly, obesity is on the rise. Globally, 40% of adults are overweight and 13% are classified as obese.

Combating obesity in the long term

Losing weight is, of course, the answer, but that is easier said than done. In particular, regaining unhealthy weight after an initially successful diet is a major problem for many people. And, remarkably, very little research has been done in this area!

Recently, however, researchers at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark have come up with some interesting insights into the issue of healthy weight maintenance.

They looked at four different types of treatment for people who had undergone an initial diet. They were able to demonstrate, for the first time how it is possible for people with previous obesity to maintain their newly gained healthy weight.

Appetite stimulating hormones increase when dieting

Professor Signe Torekov, Study Lead explained, “The problem is that people are fighting against strong biological forces when losing weight. The appetite increases simultaneously with decreased energy consumption and this counteracts weight loss maintenance. We have an appetite-stimulating hormone, which increases dramatically when we lose weight. Simultaneously the level of appetite, suppressing hormones drops dramatically. In addition, a weight loss can provoke loss of muscle mass, while the body reduces the energy consumption. When the focus in obesity treatment has been on how to obtain a weight loss, rather than how to maintain a weight loss, it is really difficult to do something about your situation.”

The researchers initially placed 215 obese patients on an 8-week low calorie diet where they lost an average of 13 Kg nearly 30lbs each. They were then divided into four groups:

  • Anti-Obesity medication group
  • Placebo group
  • Anti-Obesity medication plus exercise group
  • Placebo plus exercise group

Adopting a more active lifestyle is key

The exercise groups underwent 150 minutes of moderate exercise, or 75 minutes of intense exercise per week. The Anti-Obesity medication groups received a drug to combat appetite cravings.

After one year the results were as follows:

  • Anti-Obesity medication group: maintained their new weight
  • Placebo group: gained weight
  • Anti-Obesity medication plus exercise group: this group lost a further 3Kg (6.6 lbs.) on average
  • Placebo plus exercise group: maintained their new weight

This shows that just sitting back after dieting is not an option in terms of healthy weight maintenance. Adopting a more active lifestyle in terms of exercise is also important.

Once you have lost weight, you are not cured

Professor Torekov said, “The ongoing exercise and effort will likely need to continue for many years. Our study also demonstrates that without a structured treatment plan, there is a high risk of gaining the weight back. There were 12 individual consultations over the course of a year, including weighing and diet advice from Danish authorities according to guidelines for healthy weight maintenance. This was just not enough for the placebo group without exercise program. In this group all health benefits gained by weight loss during the 8-week programme were gone after one year, despite frequent weighing and diet and nutritional counselling based on official guidelines.”

Support needed to maintain weight loss

He believes that it is important for there to be a system for supporting people with obesity to maintain the lifestyle change following dieting. In his view, doctors, dieticians and nurses can all assist if they create a structured, joint treatment plan with the individual using ongoing follow-ups.

Therefore, before dieting to increase your chances of conceiving, make sure that you consult a relevant healthcare professional for advice.

This is because every person is different. Your healthcare professional will therefore have the best advice, based on their knowledge of you and can also advise on the type and level of exercise you should undertake once your initial diet period has ended.