[Obesity and male fertility]

Rev Fac Cien Med Univ Nac Cordoba. 2012;69(2):102-10.
[Article in Spanish]


Obesity and male infertility have increased in the last decades; therefore, a possible association between these pathologies has been explored. Studies inform that obesity may affect fertility through different mechanisms, which alltogether could exert erectile dysfunction and/or sperm quality impairment. These include: 1) hypothalamic-pituitary-testicular (HPG) axis malfunction: obese hormonal profile is characterized by reduction of testosterone, gonadotrophins, SHBG and/or inhibin B concentrations (marker of Sertoli cells function) and hyperestrogenemy (consequence of aromatase overactivity ascribed to adipose tissue increase); 2) increased release of adipose-derived hormones: leptin increase could be responsible for some of the alterations on the HPG axis and could also exert direct deleterious effects on Leydig cells physiology, spermatogenesis and sperm function; 3) proinflammatory adipokines augmentation, higher scrotal temperature (due to fat accumulation in areas surrounding testes) and endocrine disruptors accumulation in adiposites, all of these responsible for the increase in testes oxidative stress and 4) sleep apnea, frequent in obese patients, suppresses the nocturnal testosterone rise needed for normal spermatogenesis. Finally, although controversial, all the above mentioned factors could comprise gametes quality; i.e. decrease sperm density and motility and increase DNA fragmentation, probably disturbing spermatogenesis and/or epididymal function. In summary, although obesity may impair male fertility by some/all of the described mechanisms, the fact is that only a small proportion of obese men are infertile, probably those genetically predisposed or morbidly obese. Nevertheless, it is likely that because the incidence of obesity is growing, the number of men with reduced fertility will increase as well.

Publication types

  • English Abstract
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Infertility, Male / etiology*
  • Male
  • Obesity / complications*