Overweight boys more likely to become infertile and diabetic men

CATANIA, Italy — According to scientists, childhood obesity is contributing to male infertility. Boys who are overweight are more likely to have a low sperm count as adults, potentially making conception difficult for couples.

“In this study, we found that being overweight or obese was associated with a lower testicular volume around puberty,” says co-author Dr. Rossella Cannarella of Catania University in Sicily, in a media release.

The research team gathered data on testicular volume, age, body mass index (BMI), and insulin resistance from 268 children and adolescents. They discovered that testicular volume was 50 percent higher in boys of average weight at puberty than in their overweight or obese counterparts. This figure rose to double in participants with normal insulin levels compared to those with higher amounts in their blood, a condition that can lead to Type 2 diabetes.

“Those with overweight or obesity, hyperinsulinemia, or insulin resistance displayed lower testicular volume than their healthy peers,” Dr. Cannarella explains. “We speculate that more careful control of body weight in childhood could be a prevention strategy for maintaining testicular function later in life.”

Research indicates a trend toward decreasing sperm concentration and total sperm count over the past 40 years, which aligns with the global rise in childhood obesity. About six in 10 children today are projected to be obese by the age of 35.

“Although the prevalence of childhood obesity is increasing worldwide, the impact of obesity and associated metabolic disorders on testicular growth is not well understood,” says Dr. Cannarella.

Infertility affects the psychological health, economic status, and social lives of people of childbearing age. In 2010, it impacted 48 million couples. Although often overlooked, male infertility is believed to contribute to as many cases as female infertility. Yet, the cause of it largely remains a mystery.

Sperm and egg cell.
(© vchalup – stock.adobe.com)

What are some metabolic disorders?

Metabolic disorders are a group of conditions that occur when the body’s usual metabolic processes are disrupted. These disruptions can be caused by a variety of factors, such as enzyme deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, or problems with the body’s cells. Here are a few examples of metabolic disorders:

  1. Diabetes: This is one of the most common metabolic disorders. It occurs when the body can’t properly use or produce insulin, a hormone that helps glucose from food get into cells to be used for energy.
  2. Metabolic Syndrome: This term refers to a cluster of conditions that occur together, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes. These conditions include increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels.
  3. Obesity: Although not a metabolic disorder in itself, obesity can lead to metabolic disorders such as metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, heart disease, and Type 2 diabetes.
  4. Hyperthyroidism and Hypothyroidism: These conditions occur when the thyroid gland produces too much or too little thyroid hormone, respectively. Thyroid hormones are crucial for regulating metabolism, so imbalances can have widespread effects on the body.
  5. Phenylketonuria (PKU): This is an inherited disorder that increases the levels of a substance called phenylalanine in the blood. Phenylalanine is a building block of proteins (an amino acid) that is obtained through the diet. It is broken down by the enzyme phenylalanine hydroxylase. In PKU, a mutation results in a deficiency of phenylalanine hydroxylase, leading to an accumulation of phenylalanine, which can be harmful to the central nervous system.
  6. Lysosomal Storage Disorders: These are a group of inherited metabolic disorders that are characterized by an abnormal build-up of various toxic materials in the body’s cells as a result of enzyme deficiencies. Examples include Gaucher’s disease and Fabry disease.
  7. Glycogen Storage Diseases: These are a number of genetic disorders that result from defects in the processing of glycogen synthesis or breakdown within muscles, liver, and other cell types.

Metabolic disorders can lead to serious health problems if not managed appropriately. They can often be managed through diet, medication, and other treatments, depending on the specific disorder and its severity. It’s important to work with a healthcare provider or a team of medical professionals to manage these conditions.

The study, published in the European Journal of Endocrinology, offers new insights into the influence of obesity and related metabolic disorders on testicular growth during childhood.

South West News Service writer Mark Waghorn contributed to this report.

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