There's an unexpected link between obesity and fertility in men.
The two are more closely linked than you might think. Fatty tissue contains an enzyme called aromatase which transforms your manly testosterone into a form of the not-so-manly hormone, estrogen. That doesn't just sound like bad news for male sexual health, it is bad news, and a new analysis out of France makes my point perfectly.
Researchers looked at 14 studies that compared sperm counts in normal weight, overweight and obese men and, not at all surprisingly, found that obese men were 42 percent more likely to have low sperm counts. Even worse, the obese guys were 81 percent more likely to produce no sperm at all.
You don't have to be obese to lose your man-power, either — even overweight (not obese) men were having trouble producing. They were 11 percent more likely to have low sperm counts and 39 percent more likely to have no sperm at all than normal-weight men, according to the study in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
It's not just about the low counts. Other studies have found that obese men have lower sperm quality, too, including low concentration and low motility (that's the ability to move towards the egg for fertilization).
On the other hand, many overweight and obese men never realize they have any of these sperm problems in the first place because of one of the other effects of those extra pounds: erectile dysfunction.
OK, I can practically sense some of you squirming as you read this. No guy suffering from sexual dysfunction or low sperm counts wants to talk about it, and I've had my share of patients come in and beat around the bush or ask about a "friend." I get it — so let me save you from that awkward conversation. If you're overweight and suffering from any form of sexual dysfunction, drop the pounds.
If weight isn't the cause of your problems, don't be shy. Have that conversation because there could be something else going on that needs attention such as low testosterone or impaired circulation. And don't worry — your doctor's heard it all before.
Click here for more information from Dr. Mark Stengler.
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