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Abstract

Volume 12, Issue 4 (July 2010) 12, 480–489; 10.1038/aja.2010.38

Obesity: modern man's fertility nemesis

Stephanie Cabler, Ashok Agarwal, Margot Flint and Stefan S. Du Plessis

1 Center for Reproductive Medicine, The Cleveland Clinic, 9500 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44195, USA
2 Division of Medical Physiology, Faculty of Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, PO Box 19063, Tygerberg 7505, South Africa

Correspondence: Prof. Ashok Agarwal,agarwaa@ccf.org

Received 1 February 2010; Revised 31 March 2010; Accepted 14 April 2010; Published online 7 June 2010.

Abstract

The obesity pandemic has grown to concerning proportions in recent years, not only in the Western World, but in developing countries as well. The corresponding decrease in male fertility and fecundity may be explained in parallel to obesity, and obesity should be considered as an etiology of male fertility. Studies show that obesity contributes to infertility by reducing semen quality, changing sperm proteomes, contributing to erectile dysfunction, and inducing other physical problems related to obesity. Mechanisms for explaining the effect of obesity on male infertility include abnormal reproductive hormone levels, an increased release of adipose-derived hormones and adipokines associated with obesity, and other physical problems including sleep apnea and increased scrotal temperatures. Recently, genetic factors and markers for an obesity-related infertility have been discovered and may explain the difference between fertile obese and infertile obese men. Treatments are available for not only infertility related to obesity, but also as a treatment for the other comorbidities arising from obesity. Natural weight loss, as well as bariatric surgery are options for obese patients and have shown promising results in restoring fertility and normal hormonal profiles. Therapeutic interventions including aromatase inhibitors, exogenous testosterone replacement therapy and maintenance and regulation of adipose-derived hormones, particularly leptin, may also be able to restore fertility in obese males. Because of the relative unawareness and lack of research in this area, controlled studies should be undertaken and more focus should be given to obesity as an etiolgy of male infertility.

Keywords: adipokines; infertility; leptin; obesity; spermatozoa

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