Father’s Weight Can Affect Fertility and Conception?

There have been numerous studies showing the negative impact of obesity on a woman’s fertility and fetal development, but little research has been conducted on the impact of a man’s weight on conception. However, a new study from Australian researchers points to obesity in men as potentially having negative effects on conception and fetal development. This new study found that obesity has a negative effect on sperm; it results in lower rates of conception, smaller fetuses, and reduced placental weight and development. The placenta is important to not only the health of the developing fetus, but has long term implications affecting health conditions through the entire life span of a person.

The researchers fed mice the equivalent of a Western diet in order to induce obesity.  After 10 weeks, they used in vitro fertilization (IVF) on the mice to determine the effects of paternal obesity on embryo implantation into the womb and fetal development.  Compared to mice of normal weight, the rate of embryo implantation into the womb decreased in the obese mice by up to 15 percent.  Additionally, the fetal development and the weight of the placenta were significantly less for embryos formed with the sperm of obese males.

The findings highlight the importance of men maintaining a healthy weight to promote optimal results in procreation. Lead researcher, Professor David Gardner of the University of Melbourne, compared reproduction to a sports game: “sperm needs to be ‘match fit’ for the games of life, and creating life is the biggest thing that we can do.” In America, more than a third of men are now obese. In 2010, 36% of men were obese, up from about 28% in 2000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and almost 70% of Americans are now overweight or obese. While a recent report using data from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) found that the rates of obesity in women have stabilized over the past few years, it also revealed that in the USA, we continue to see an inching-up of obesity rates among males. You can read more about the nation’s obesity rates here.

Dr. Tom Brown, expert bariatric surgeon at the Colorado Bariatric Surgery Institute, spoke with us about the findings.  He said: “The threat that obesity poses to overall health is increasingly staggering, and is becoming better understood as the obesity epidemic continues.  Therefore, it is not surprising to me that obesity in men may potentially have a negative impact on fertility.  We know that achieving weight loss in obese male patients improves overall health, so it is likely that reproductive health may also be favorably impacted as this study suggests.” The study’s findings will be presented at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the Endocrine Society of Australia and the Society for Reproductive Biology 2012.

Comments are closed.