If you think you may want to have children in the future, it could be time to start watching your weight.
According to new research, being obese may adversely affect men’s sperm, making it more difficult for couples to conceive.
The study, published in the journal Andologia, found that obesity was associated with lower volume of semen, sperm count, concentration and motility, as well as greater sperm defects.
While it’s long been known that being overweight can impact a woman’s fertility by affecting ovulation, the latest research adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting men’s weight could be just as important.
The study compared the sperm of more than 1,000 men using specialised computer software to determine how weight affects sperm count and sperm quality.
Dr Gottumukkala Ramaraju, lead author of the study, commented: “The health and reproductive performance of spermatozoa in obese men are more likely to be compromised both qualitatively and quantitatively.
“Results from our present dataset suggest that efforts focusing on male weight loss before conception are warranted for couples seeking infertility treatment.”
The research follows a 2012 study from Harvard School of Public Health which combined data from 14 studies comparing sperm count in overweight, obese, and healthy weight men, along with data from an infertility centre.
The scientists found that men who were overweight were 11% more likely to have a low sperm count and 39% more likely to have no sperm in their ejaculate than men who were considered a healthy weight.
Obese men were 42% more likely to have a low sperm count than their lighter peers and 81% more likely to produce no sperm.
Commenting on the latest findings, Professor Geeta Nargund, medical director of Create Fertility told HuffPost UK: “It is well known that obesity impacts negatively on male reproductive potential by reducing sperm quality and quantity.
“This latest research strengthens previous findings and helps us to counsel men attending fertility clinics. A rise in sedentary lifestyle, poor diet and lack of regular exercise are contributing to obesity in men.”
Aside from weight, Professor Nargund said there are several lifestyle factors that affect sperm function and it is important that we “educate men and help them to improve their sperm in order to increase success rates of natural and assisted conception”.
“Smoking, excessive alcohol intake, using recreational drugs and anabolic steroids, poor diet, sedentary lifestyle and excessive body weight can all have a bearing on sperm quality and quantity,” she said.
“It takes up to three months for the body to create new sperm, so to guarantee their efforts are worthwhile they should be making lifestyle changes many months ahead of time.
“One in six couples have fertility problems in the UK and in nearly half of the cases, male infertility is the problem. Advancing paternal age is also linked with reduced fertility. We need to shift the paradigm from treatment to prevention in infertility and fertility education is crucial to achieve this.”