Men who want to have children have a responsibility to get in shape, according to two recent studies. In addition to erectile dysfunction, obesity has been shown to either reduce sperm count or eliminate it entirely from semen. Plus, lower quality sperm as a result of obesity can compromise a healthy pregnancy.
Obstacles to male fertility
A build-up of arterial plaque that leads to high blood pressure is a consequence of obesity and known cause of erectile dysfunction. Obesity also lowers testosterone levels, which adds to the problem. But erectile dysfunction isn’t the only thing standing in the way for obese men who want to start a family.
Sperm count is a key indicator of male fertility and a study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health suggests that poor male fertility is another one of the health risks of obesity. Researchers analyzed data from 14 studies comparing sperm counts from obese and overweight men, as well as men of normal weight.
Unhealthy birth control
As reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine, out of 10,000 semen samples nearly 25 percent had low sperm counts. Nearly 250 samples had no sperm swimming in them whatsoever. Researchers calculated that compared to men of normal weight, overweight men were 11 percent more likely to have a low sperm count and 39 percent more likely to have no sperm count.
Obesity magnified the problem. Data on obese men in the analysis showed they were 42 percent more likely to have a low sperm count and 81 percent more likely to have sperm-free semen—not the most healthy path to birth control.
Australia’s weight problem
It’s well known that a large number of American men are obese, but in Australia, the problem is even worse. According to the World Health Organization, 75 percent of Australian males are overweight or obese, compared to a U.S. average of 44 percent and a global average of 48 percent.
Reproductive scientists at the University of Melbourne’s Department of Zoology used in vitro fertilization on mice to investigate the effects of paternal obesity on embryos. Obese males were fed the equivalent of a fast food diet for 10 weeks. Embryos were fertilized using the sperm of both normal weight and obese male mice.
Get “match fit”
Paternal obesity negatively affected implantation of the egg into the womb. This led to a smaller placenta, which impaired fetal growth and development. In addition to lower pregnancy success, conception resulted in smaller fetuses, which lead to mice with long-term health consequences.
In a statement, lead researcher David Gardner said, “A lot of men don’t understand what contribution they’re having, but they need to be healthy before conceiving. Sperm needs to be match fit for the games of life and creating life is the biggest thing that we can do.”
Eat omega 3 foods
In addition to losing weight, another recent study suggests that men can enhance the health of their sperm by adding walnuts to their diet. Research has also shown that foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids can improve sperm quality. Future fathers should be developing a taste for salmon, eggs, nuts, seeds, berries and sweet potatoes.