Impact of obesity on male fertility, sperm function and molecular composition

Spermatogenesis. 2012 Oct 1;2(4):253-263. doi: 10.4161/spmg.21362.


Male obesity in reproductive-age men has nearly tripled in the past 30 y and coincides with an increase in male infertility worldwide. There is now emerging evidence that male obesity impacts negatively on male reproductive potential not only reducing sperm quality, but in particular altering the physical and molecular structure of germ cells in the testes and ultimately mature sperm. Recent data has shown that male obesity also impairs offspring metabolic and reproductive health suggesting that paternal health cues are transmitted to the next generation with the mediator mostly likely occurring via the sperm. Interestingly the molecular profile of germ cells in the testes and sperm from obese males is altered with changes to epigenetic modifiers. The increasing prevalence of male obesity calls for better public health awareness at the time of conception, with a better understanding of the molecular mechanism involved during spermatogenesis required along with the potential of interventions in reversing these deleterious effects. This review will focus on how male obesity affects fertility and sperm quality with a focus on proposed mechanisms and the potential reversibility of these adverse effects.