How obesity affects your sperm – From Dr. Kenan Omurtag
You wake up one morning, roll over, sit up and when you look down you discover your feet have disappeared and, in their place is this huge orb of flab staring you in the face…You are now one of the 36.5% and ‘growing’ U.S. population of obese adults.
It is known that obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer…and that the cost of obesity in the U.S. is estimated to be over 146 billion dollars but, did you know that obesity ALSO affects sperm?
We asked Dr. Kenan Omurtag to ‘weigh-in’ with his insight about how packing on the pounds affects your swimmers.
“Let’s first begin with the definition of obese. People are considered obese when their BMI (body mass index), a value calculated by dividing your weight (in kg) by the square of your height (in meters) is over 30 kg/m2 with overweight defined as 25–30 kg/m2
The bad news for fertility
Is fat good or is fat bad? How about when it comes to…well, your sperm? Obesity has a definite impact on sperm production. We know many overweight and obese men have fathered children, but we also have evidence of a growing (no pun intended) international problem with men’s sperm counts dropping that appears to coincide with a near tripling of obesity in men.
Here are a few interesting facts about the effect of obesity on both general and sperm health:
- Obesity is linked to problems with fertilization, decreased sperm counts and less consistently, decreased sperm motility and morphology.
- Obesity is associated with high levels of insulin circulating in your blood and diabetes. High levels of insulin in obese men indirectly result in lower testosterone levels.
- Fat cells have special enzymes called aromatase that churn out estrogens. Men with an abundance of fat cells make more estrogen production. This can disrupt the brain’s communication with the testicles and impact fertility.
The good news for fertility
Many overweight and obese men have normal semen parameters but many do not. Also, in each case there could be other unknown factors besides weight. While it is not clear at exactly what weight or BMI the problem becomes evident and starts to impact sperm and fertility, the good news is that losing weight can reverse any potential negative effect on sperm. Invariably, when I see a couple and the man is obese and asks me ‘Is there anything I should be doing?’ the answer is weight loss and improved diet. However, I make it clear that such lifestyle changes are done in parallel with fertility treatments.
Weight loss and improved diet can be accomplished by following these strategies (of course easier said than done – but well worth the effort if it solves a fertility issue):
- Do it with your partner…a lot! Not talking about sex here (although that will help) but exercise and improve your diet together – it works better when you have the encouragement and support!
- Commit to exercise! 25-30 minutes a day at a rate/pace that gets you sweating.
- Structure a diet that is high in protein (fish, lean meats, chicken), low in refined carbs (those that are processed) and rich in unsaturated fatty oils (nuts, olives). Be sure to eat a diet that is also balanced with fruits and vegetables. Many diet resources are available both to read about, subscribe to online or to join.
- Start taking a daily vitamin for men.
- Take extra vitamin C (500 mg a day). This will also help your immune system.
- Set realistic expectations for weight loss – 3 to 5 pounds a week resulting from a program that encompasses both a change in food consumption and exercise is realistic.
It is not 100% clear at what exact BMI extra weight becomes a problem to one’s semen parameters, and ultimately, fertility. But the good news is that losing weight and improving your overall health can reverse the effect of obesity on your fertility. If building a family is your priority, consider checking your sperm before and after (even during) your journey with an at home test such as the YO Sperm Test to monitor your progress optimizing your fertility through weight control.”