The best way to improve your hormonal balance if you’re overweight is, quite simply, to shift those pounds, as a detailed study from Denmark shows. As obese men lose weight, their testosterone levels and fertility increase significantly.

We’ve already talked at length about the estrogenic effects of excess body fat, mainly as a result of the enzyme aromatase, which converts testosterone into estradiol (estrogen), the female sex hormone. Fat cells synthesise this enzyme, and so the more fat a man has, the more of the enzyme he has – and, as a result, the more estradiol.

One of the reasons fat men have such a hard time shifting the weight is precisely because of their unbalanced hormonal environment. Having excess estradiol is not conducive to building muscle, which, as we’ve already discussed, is the best long-term strategy for staying in good shape.

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Estradiol tells the brain that there are high levels of steroid hormones circulating in the blood, and so the brain reacts by lowering the amount of luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) it secretes. LH and FSH stimulate the production of testosterone and sperm in the testes. If there are lower levels of these two hormones, the testosterone level declines further and sperm quality decreases too. Some studies suggest there is a link between overweight and reduced fertility and sexual problems.

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It’s also worth noting that studies show that enzymes in fat tissue also convert DHT, another androgen (male hormone), into inactive compounds, further enhancing the feminising effects that take place.

So what should fat men do? Lose weight, as a study from 2011 reveals. 

Endocrinologists at Denmark’s Aarhus University did an experiment with 43 men aged between 20 and 59, with a BMI higher than 33 (i.e. heavily obese).

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The men followed a 14-week diet and exercise programme to lose weight. Before starting the programme, the researchers measured the men’s hormone levels and sperm quality. 

As you can see, the higher the BMI, the worse the values were, across the board.

The researchers repeated the measurements for 27 of the subjects after they’d completed the programme. The table below shows that weight loss made the men more fertile and raised their testosterone level.

Low testosterone levels have become something of an epidemic in the developed world, and their shocking decrease over recent decades has led to a similarly precipitous decline in fertility. 

Some experts are even warning that, if current trends continue, by as early as 2045 it could be impossible for humans to reproduce naturally! Among the many probable causes are rising rates of obesity as a result of sedentarism and diet, and growing exposure to toxic estrogenic chemicals, including xenoestrogens (industrial chemicals) and phytoestrogens (natural plant compounds found in plants such as soy and hops).

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For everything you need to know about endocrine disruptors in one place, we recommend you check out our comprehensive article on the subject.