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Being Overweight May Harm Men's Semen Quality

"The heavier the men, the higher the chances of a low sperm count"

Overweight and obese men in a new study showed diminished quantity and quality of semen, suggesting that a weight problem might also affect fertility, researchers say.

"The heavier the men, the higher the chances of a low sperm count," urologist Dr. Keith Jarvi told Reuters. "I don't think that this message is well known or appreciated by men in general," said Jarvi, who was not involved in the new study.

Dr. Michael Eisenberg, of Stanford University School of Medicine in California, and his colleagues recruited 468 couples in Texas and Michigan who were planning to conceive a child and tested several aspects of the men's semen.

They also weighed the men and measured their waists and found that greater waist circumference and body mass index (BMI) - a measure of weight relative to height - were both linked to lower ejaculate volume. "All aspects of semen quality are important," Eisenberg said. "Ejaculate has several chemicals that provide a safer environment for sperm. As such, if the volume is low it may be a problem." Sperm count, another important metric, was lower among men with bigger waists.

"The sperm count is just that: the number of sperm in each cc of semen," said Jarvi, director of the Murray Koffler Urologic Wellness Centre and Head of Urology at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, Canada. Higher semen volume, within the optimal range between 2 and 5 milliliters, will overall have more sperm, Jarvi said. A volume under 1.5 mLs may cause infertility, he said, but too much is not good either.

In the study, a typical man in the normal BMI range had an ejaculate volume of 3.3 mL, compared to 2.8 mL for men in the highest BMI category, severely obese. Men with the largest waists, over 40 inches, had about 22 percent lower total sperm count compared to men with waist measurements under 37 inches.

There appeared to be no link to semen concentration, motility, vitality or physical appearance, according to the results published in the journal Human Reproduction.

About half of the men had already fathered children when the study took place and none of the couples were seeking help with infertility when they were recruited. The researchers also did not follow up to see whether the men succeeded in having children later.

Most men exercised less than once per week, so the authors couldn't really examine what effects more exercise might have on sperm.
"The big question is what does reduction in body weight do to the sperm counts in men starting with a low sperm count?" Jarvi said. "This is the question that my overweight patients ask."

Article By Kathryn Doyle, for NBC News. Read entire article here.

Editor's note: Many obese men have fathered multiple children: One example is Blues and Soul legend, Soloman Burke, known for many soul hits such as: "Cry to me", and "Everybody needs somebody to love," fathered 21 children, had 4 wives and was so overweight he had to be wheeled onto the stage in his golden throne. (he was flamboyant in all things and had the throne made for him after a DJ called him the King of Soul early in his career.) He was quoted to say: "I took heed of the Bible's command to be fruitful and multiply, I just didn't take no heed to anything after that!"

The researchers at the University of Bristol say that another study of men who started smoking regularly before the age of 11 had sons who, on average, had 5-10kg more body fat than their others by the time they were in their teensthis could indicate that exposure to tobacco smoke before the start of puberty may lead to metabolic changes in the next generation.

The effect was not seen to the same degree in daughters. The effect was not seen in the sons of men who started smoking after the age of 11, suggesting that the period before the start of puberty is a particularly sensitive period for environmental exposures.  Of the 9,886 fathers enrolled in the study, 5,376 (54 per cent) were smokers at some time and, of these, 166 (3 per cent) reported smoking regularly before the age of 11.

When measured at age 13, 15 and 17, the sons of the men in the latter category had the highest BMIs at each time point compared with the sons of men who had started smoking later or who had never smoked. More precisely, these boys had markedly higher levels of fat mass (recorded using whole-body scans), ranging from an extra 5kg to 10kg between ages 13 and 17. The research has been published in the European Journal of Human Genetics.

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