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Another problem for overweight or obese men: an increased risk of poor sperm quality. Researchers in India found that compared to normal weight men, obesity was associated with lower sperm count, lower volume of semen, lower sperm concentration, poor sperm motility (the movement of sperm), as well as sperm defects. There is some evidence (from other studies and the researchers own work) that there is improvement in sperm quality with weight loss.

The researchers pointed out that other studies have shown that "paternal obesity at conception had deleterious effects on embryo health, implantation, pregnancy, and live birth rates." And that poor sperm quality is a cause of infertility. So.... what do the researchers recommend? Weight loss and exercise, and perhaps bariatric surgery, for obese men having fertility problems due to poor sperm quality. From Medical Xpress: 

As men's weight rises, sperm health may fall

A widening waistline may make for shrinking numbers of sperm, new research suggests. Indian scientists studied more than 1,200 men and found that too much extra weight was linked to a lower volume of semen, a lower sperm count and lower sperm concentration. In addition, sperm motility (the ability to move quickly through the female reproductive tract) was poor. The sperm had other defects as well, the researchers added. Poor sperm quality can lower fertility and the chances of conception.

"It's known that obese women take longer to conceive," said lead researcher Dr. Gottumukkala Achyuta Rama Raju, from the Center for Assisted Reproduction at the Krishna IVF Clinic, in Visakhapatnam. "This study proves that obese men are also a cause for delay in conception," he added.

But in continuing research, the study team is looking to see if losing weight will improve the quality of sperm. Although that study is still in progress, early signs look good that sperm quality improves as men lose weight, Rama Raju said. Recent reports have found that extreme weight loss after bariatric surgery reversed some of the sperm decline, he said.

For the study, Rama Raju and his colleagues used computer-aided sperm analysis to assess the sperm of 1,285 men. Obese men, they found, had fewer sperm, a lower concentration of sperm and inability of the sperm to move at a normal speed, compared with the sperm of men of normal weight. Moreover, the sperm of obese men had more defects than other sperm. These defects included defects in the head of the sperm, such as thin heads and pear-shaped heads.  [Original study.]

 Human sperm. Credit: Wikipedia

  Recent research looked at environmental causes of male infertility, specifically endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Poor semen quality contributes to increases in infertility and the use of assisted reproductive technology.The researchers also discuss the higher incidence of testicular cancer worldwide, lower rates of testosterone in men, and poor semen quality among men aged 20 to 25 (with the average man having up to 90% abnormal sperm). From Science Daily:

Endocrine-disrupting chemicals may be threatening fertility in industrialized countries

The birth rate is declining in all industrialised countries, and socioeconomic factors and women's age are not solely to blame. Male reproductive health and environmental factors are also significant, as concluded in a new scientific review article. ...Behind the article are fertility researchers from Denmark, the US and Finland. The researchers studied a number of factors related to fertility, and one of the main conclusions of their study was that poor semen quality contributed to increases in infertility and the use of assisted reproductive technology.

The study also revealed higher incidence of testicular cancer worldwide, with the greatest frequency among Caucasian populations. Moreover, the researchers also observed lower levels of testosterone in average men. "I was surprised that we found such poor semen quality among young men aged 20 to 25. The average man had up to 90% of abnormal sperm. Normally, there would be so many sperms that a few abnormal ones would not affect fertility. However, it appears that we are at a tipping point in industrialised countries where poor semen quality is so widespread that we must suspect that it results in low pregnancy rates," said first author of the article, Professor Niels E. Skakkebaek from the Department of Growth and Reproduction (EDMaRC) at Rigshospitalet and the University of Copenhagen.

"The article also demonstrates the impact of the increasing number of male reproductive problems on low birth rates. There is no doubt that environmental factors are playing a role. These are the correlations we are researching at the new research centre EDMaRC at Rigshospitalet," added Professor Anders Juul, who is the last author of the article.

Many of the male reproductive problems could be due to damage to the testes during embryonic development. While the reproductive problems could arise from genetic changes, "recent evidence suggests that most often they are related to environmental exposures of the fetal testes," the researcher team wrote."Since the disorders in male genitals have increased over a relatively short period of time, genetics alone cannot explain this development. There is no doubt that environmental factors are playing a role and that endocrine-disrupting chemicals, which have the same effect on animals, are under great suspicion. The exposure that young people are subjected to today can determine not only their own, but also their children's, ability to procreate," explained Professor Skakkebaek.