Objective: To examine the relationship between body mass index (BMI) and semen quality among young men from the general population.
Design: Cross-sectional study.
Setting: Danish young men were approached when they attended a compulsory physical examination to determine their fitness for military service.
Patient(s): From 1996-1998, 1,558 (19%) young men (mean age 19 years) volunteered.
Main outcome measure(s): Semen volume (in milliliters), sperm concentration (in million per milliliter), percentage of motile spermatozoa, percentage of spermatozoa with normal morphology, total sperm count (in million), and testis size (in milliliters). In addition, serum reproductive hormones were measured.
Result(s): Serum T, sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), and inhibin B all decreased with increasing BMI, whereas free androgen index and E(2) increased with increasing BMI. Serum FSH was higher among slim men. After control for confounders, men with a BMI <20 kg/m(2) had a reduction in sperm concentration and total sperm count of 28.1% (95% confidence interval [CI] 8.3%-47.9%) and 36.4% (95% CI 14.6%-58.3%), respectively, and men with a BMI >25 kg/m(2) had a reduction in sperm concentration and total sperm count of 21.6% (95% CI 4.0%-39.4%) and 23.9% (95% CI 4.7%-43.2%), respectively, compared to men with BMI between 20-25 kg/m(2). Percentages of normal spermatozoa were reduced, although not significantly, among men with high or low BMI. Semen volume and percentage of motile spermatozoa were not affected by BMI.
Conclusion(s): High or low BMI was associated with reduced semen quality. It remains to be seen whether the increasing occurrence of obesity in the Western world may contribute to an epidemic of poor semen quality registered in some of the same countries. If so, some cases of subfertility may be preventable.