High-Fat Diet Causes Subfertility and Compromised Ovarian Function Independent of Obesity in Mice

Biol Reprod. 2016 May;94(5):108. doi: 10.1095/biolreprod.115.137414. Epub 2016 Mar 30.


Excess calorie consumption, particularly of a diet high in fat, is a risk factor for both obesity and reproductive disorders. Animal model studies indicate that elevated dietary fat can influence some reproductive functions independent of obesity. In the current study we sought to determine whether a high-fat diet (HFD) impacts ovarian function, long-term fertility, and local and systemic markers of inflammation independent of obesity. Five-week-old mice were fed either low-fat diet (control group-LF-Ln) or HFD for 10 wk and were divided based on body weight into high-fat obese (HF-Ob: >25 g) and high-fat lean (HF-Ln: <22 g). Ovaries were collected to assess ovarian follicles and to determine the degree of local inflammation. Serum proinflammatory cytokines were also measured. A group of animals was followed for breeding trials for 5 mo while being exposed to LFD or HFD. We found that both 10-wk and 32-wk exposure to HFD resulted in depleted primordial follicles regardless of obesity phenotype. Macrophage counts revealed increased tissue inflammation in the ovary independent of obesity. In addition, serum proinflammatory cytokines were increased in HF-Ln and HF-Ob in comparison to LF-Ln mice. Moreover, HFD had a sustained effect on litter production rate and number of pups per litter regardless of obese phenotype. This study describes for the first time that exposure to HFD causes significant reduction in primordial follicles, compromised fertility, produced higher proinflammatory cytokine levels, and increased ovarian macrophage infiltration, independent of obesity. The negative effects of HFD on primordial follicles may be mediated by increased tissue inflammation.

Keywords: fertility; high-fat diet; inflammation; ovary.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Diet, High-Fat*
  • Dietary Fats / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Infertility / etiology*
  • Litter Size
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Obese
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Ovarian Diseases / etiology*
  • Ovary / drug effects*
  • Ovary / physiopathology*


  • Dietary Fats