Shedding the pounds boosts a man’s fertility as sperm also become fitter and are more likely to reach the egg, according to new research.
Losing weight increases both he number and quality of sperm, researchers reveal.
In the U.K, around one in ten men are infertile—defined as unsuccessfully attempting pregnancy for a year or longer.
“It was surprising to us that such a big improvement can be shown in the semen quality in connection with weight loss,” Professor Signe Torekov, lead author of the study at the University of Copenhagen, said.
In the UK two in three men either overweight or obese. A study of 56 obese participants found sperm concentration and count soared by 50 and 40 per cent in just eight weeks, after they lost around two and a half stone.
Subjects were aged 18 to 65 and had BMIs, body mass indexes, from 32 to 43 before undergoing a diet and exercise regime.
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The findings are “good news” for fertility. A link between higher sperm count and faster achievement of pregnancy has been established.
On average a man produces between 80 and 300 million sperm each time he ejaculates.
Despite that, more than 60 per cent of issues are related to poor sperm, so it is important to keep them healthy. One in five under 35s has a low sperm count.
It has long been known obesity is associated with reduced semen quality. But studies into the affect of weight loss on sperm have been too small to draw conclusions.
“But now we are ready to do just that. This is the first long term randomized study, where we have shown semen quality in men with obesity improve with a sustained weight loss,” Prof Torekov added.
“The men lost an average of 16.5 kg [36lbs] which increased the sperm concentration by 50 percent and the sperm count by 40 percent eight weeks since the weight loss.
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“During the 52 weeks the trial lasted following the weight loss, the men maintained the improved semen quality, but only the men who maintained the weight loss.
“After a year, these men had twice as many sperm cells as before. The men who regained weight, lost the improvements in semen quality.”
The Danish volunteers provided semen samples and followed a low-calorie diet for eight weeks.
They were then divided into four groups, two of which received obesity medications and the rest a placebo.
They were further separated, with half assigned a weekly exercise programme of at least 150 or 75 minutes of moderate or hard training, or their usual level of activity.
After a year, those that only exercised and did not receive medication, or received obesity medication and did not exercise, maintained the weight loss.
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Those that both received obesity medication and exercised lost additional weight and improved health.
The placebo group that did not exercise regained half of the weight loss – with aggravation of many risk factors related to type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
“Our study shows a short-term low-calorie weight loss intervention in men with obesity improves sperm concentration and sperm count,” Prof Torekov said.
“In addition, we provide evidence obesity medication and exercise can be used to maintain the weight loss-induced improvements and may be used for preserving sperm quality in the long term.
“Improved sperm concentration and sperm count may be linked to a shorter time to pregnancy. The persistent improvement may also result in improved male fertility.”
The findings in the journal Human Reproduction add to evidence obesity is a risk factor for development of male infertility.
“The prevalence of obesity is increasing globally, while studies indicate declining sperm count over time,” she added.
“Increasing BMI levels, overweight and obesity are associated with decreased sperm concentration, total sperm count, progressive sperm motility, and sperm morphology.”
Earlier this month a study found older men are less likely to be able to have children if they are fat.
Ageing sperm is more likely to be abnormal. Men with a BMI above 30, in the obese range, had sperm that was accelerated in age.
Even fathers who were able to have kids before gaining weight struggled with their reproductive health as they became obese.
The U.S. scientists said the results reveal while aging may lead to weaker sperm overall, having a high BMI exacerbates the process.
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