Saturday, 9 December 2006

Obesity emerges as major cause of infertility in men

(December 13, 2006)
By Syed Akbar
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.
A team of embryologists from Cambridge, UK, are presently in 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 coordinating with the UK embryologists at a camp on
assisted reproductive technologies on intracytoplasic sperm injection, blastocyst
culture, assisted hatching and cryopreservation and vitrification of ovarian tissue
and oocyte. The camp which begins on December 14 will continue till December 17.
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
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.

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This Day In History

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Syed Akbar in an island in river Godavari with Papikonda hills in the background

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Syed Akbar at the 11th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity