Smoking, pollution and sexually transmitted diseases have long been linked to infertility. But obesity has now emerged as the major cause of sterility in men.
Health surveys carried out in different parts of the world including Hyderabad reveal that overweight men tend to produce less quantity of sperm which leads of infertility in them. Even the World Health Organisation in its latest report points out obesity as one of the three main factors for infertility, coupled with smoking and sexually transmitted diseases, particular AIDS.
Earlier a team of embryologists from Cambridge, UK, visited Hyderabad exploring the reasons why obesity is leading to defective sperm and explaining to local doctors the steps one should take to improve the fertility levels. The Centre for infertility Management is coordinated with the UK embryologists on assisted reproductive technologies on intracytoplasic sperm injection, blastocyst culture, assisted hatching and cryopreservation and vitrification of ovarian tissue and oocyte.
In India one out of every 200 men are infertile. Most men are not aware of the dangers of delaying treatment. While before 36 years is the best age to treat the problem, most men prefer to go for semen analysis, which in most cases turned out to be useless. Though, once or twice is enough, most men go for it at least 10 times the issue of male infertility was about being viewed lightly by many while truth was that in 30 per cent to 40 per cent of the cases dealt daily, problem was with men alone, says fertility expert Dr Roya Rozati.According to Dr Markku Sallmen of Institute of Occupational Health, it was found in a research study carried out by them that a 10 kgs increase in a man's weight may increase the chance of infertility by about 10 per cent. A BMI from 18.5 to 24.9 is considered normal while a BMI of more than 25 is considered overweight. A person is considered obese if the BMI is greater than 30 and morbidly obese if the BMI is 40 or greater.
The average chance to conceive for a normally fertile couple having regular, unprotected intercourse is about 25 per cent during each menstrual cycle. In most couples, conception occurs within a year. However, infertility affects about 12 per cent of couples of childbearing age. Husbands are a contributing cause of infertility in about 40 per cent of infertile couples.
The WHO report (2006) points out that there are more than 186 million infertile couples in developing countries excluding China. In worst affected countries, 25 per cent of couples are infertile.
Surveys reveal that obesity accounts for 6 per cent of primary infertility in the United States. Infertility can be corrected by restoring body weight to within normal established limits.
Research carried out by the School of Molecular and Biomedical Science, Australia reveals that even obese women tend to be infertile. Women who are fatter are at risk of losing their fertility levels than women who are slim.
Physiology researcher Siew Lim point out that such women also suffer from miscarriages and have irregular menstrual cycles. Two thirds of Australians are now either overweight or obese and there is no sign of it levelling off. Metabolic diseases and obesity-related reproductive disorders are going to increase if nothing is done, she says.
Like men obese women are about three times more likely to be infertile compared to normal women. Obesity rates have doubled in many parts of the world including India in the last 20 years. Even children studying in schools are increasingly turning fatter.
Health experts warn that childhood obesity in adolescence and young adulthood needs to be targeted early so that women enter their reproductive years without carrying excess weight. This is because, obese women are more likely to give birth to overweight babies and this creates a vicious cycle. We need to break this cycle now, otherwise we will have a higher incidence of infertility and reproductive disorders, they point out.