We are in the midst of a global fertility crisis, as sperm counts and testosterone levels drop.
Now new research suggests that losing and maintaining weight loss can help to double your sperm count as a man.
“It was surprising to us that such a big improvement can be shown in the semen quality in connection with a weight loss. And as 18 percent of Danes have obesity, this new knowledge may actually make a difference,” says Professor Signe Torekov who co-headed the study with Professor Romain Barres at the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research.
Sperm counts: double if you lose weight
Professor Torekov explains that it has long been known that obesity is associated with reduced semen quality.
Previous studies have suggested a link between weight loss and increased semen quality, but these studies have had a number of problems associated with them. They have had few participants or involved such modest weight loss that it has been difficult to draw firm conclusions as a result.
“But now we are ready to do just that. This is the first long-term randomised study, where we have shown that semen quality in men with obesity improve with a sustained weight loss,” says Professor Torekov.
“The men lost an average of 16.5 kg which increased the sperm concentration by 50 percent and the sperm count by 40 percent eight weeks since the weight loss,” she continues.
“During the 52 weeks, the trial lasted following the weight loss, the men maintained the improved semen quality. But only the men who maintained the weight loss: after a year, these men had twice as many sperm cells as before their weight loss. The men who regained weight, lost the improvements in semen quality,” she explains.
Could 3D printing solve the male fertility crisis?
In recent months, awareness has been growing about worrying trends in human fertility, especially male sperm counts and testosterone levels, largely as a result of a new book by Professor Shanna Swan, a reproductive health expert at Mt Sinai, New York.
Now scientists are claiming to have come up with a potential solution to certain forms of male infertility: 3D-printed testicular cells.
Researchers from the University of British Columbia say these new 3D-printed cells show promising early signs of being able to produce sperm.
“We’re 3D printing these cells into a very specific structure that mimics human anatomy, which we think is our best shot at stimulating sperm production,” says Dr Ryan Flannigan, in a university release.
“If successful, this could open the door to new fertility treatments for couples who currently have no other options.”
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The study is a sub-study of a piece of major research on weight loss, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in May 2021. 215 Danish people with obesity participated in the larger study, of whom 56 men also provided semen samples to investigate whether semen quality and weight loss could be related.
All participants followed an eight-week regimen with a low-calorie diet, resulting in a weight loss. Then the participants were randomly divided into four groups.
Two of the groups received placebo medication, and the other two groups received obesity medication. Among the two placebo groups, one group had to follow an exercise programme. Each week, they had to do a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate physical training or 75 minutes of hard training, or a combination of both. The other group did not change their usual level of physical activity.
The remaining two groups, which received obesity medication, were also divided in the same way.
After a year, it was shown that the group that only exercised and did not receive medication, as well as the group that only received obesity medication and did not exercise, maintained the weight loss of 13 kg.. The group that both received obesity medication and exercised lost additional weight and improved health. The placebo group — those who thought they were given medication, but did not exercise — had regained half of the weight loss with aggravation of many of the risk factors related to development of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
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