Bodyweight can often be a delicate topic, but it is necessary to address it, as it can have a huge effect on a person’s overall health as well as the capability to reproduce. The BMI which is known as the Body Mass Index is the key index relating weight to height and represents an accurate measurement which permits physicians to know if someone is overweight, underweight, extremely obese or obese. When overweight, your health can be affected adversely as conditions like heart disease, diabetes and hypertension among others are much more common.
Just like women who develop fertility issues related to BMI, men also experience the same problems. If men are overweight, it can affect the sperm motility (how the sperm cells move) and sperm count. When the male hormone production is disturbed because of the increased body mass index, it may affect the man’s capability to produce healthy sperm on a regular basis. Also, the natural balance of estrogen and testosterone could be impaired, which may, in the end, affect the whole process of sperm production (spermatogenesis). Men who are obese also suffer from excess warming of the scrotum. If the temperature of the scrotum increases just by 1 or 2%, it can impair the production of sperm or sperm survival. Maintaining a healthy BMI leads in various ways towards proper spermatogenesis. Men normally produce millions of fresh sperm cells on a daily basis, so striving towards a healthy lifestyle is of huge importance. Sperm cells take about 74 days to mature in the male body which means that those who make positive lifestyle changes or those who lose weight might need to wait up to 3 months before sperm production and quality is improved.
There may be several ways in which excess body fat affects male fertility, and in many cases, many factors contribute at the same time towards defective spermatogenesis. Some common problems include:
- Abnormal Testosterone levels: Fat cells are important in the way the body produces and regulates hormones and when this body fat gets out of balance, hormones can do the same too. Men that are overweight tend to have a higher level of the female hormones which are called estrogen and lower levels of male hormones such as testosterone. All this affects negatively the whole process of sperm production.
- Raised temperature: The body’s production of sperm has been shown to be highly sensitive to raised temperature. Studies have shown that increased scrotal temperature goes hand in hand with lower sperm quality and count. The consequence of having excess body fat might be raised temperature in the scrotum which in turn causes damage to the sperm.
- Sexual dysfunction: Obesity is one of the main reasons for erectile dysfunction in men.
Although erectile dysfunction represents a complicated condition, obesity affects negatively self-esteem which can be a major problem in many otherwise healthy individuals, leading to erectile problems. Additionally, many obese people develop conditions like diabetes or hypertension which impair the blood flow towards the penis leading to problems achieving a satisfactory erection.
Athanasios Pantelis, MD, PhD
Athanasios is an Infertility Specialist at Newlife IVF Greece. He obtained a PhD degree and graduated from the Medical School of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTH).