While female fertility complications are generally well documented, issues of male fertility tend to receive less media coverage.
A recent Reuters report, however, illuminates an issue that many men might find to be revealing—namely, a supposed connection between lifestyle and fertility. The article points to new evidence that suggests heavier men may have a lower sperm count, or may even have no sperm production at all. But according to researchers at ReproSource, the truth about male fertility is considerably more complex than this study might first suggest.
“Male fertility research is a challenging area in which to establish cause and effect,” comments Benjamin Leader, MD, PhD, director of clinical research at ReproSource. “In fact, fertility is one of the most difficult diagnostic issues clinicians encounter, if not the most difficult. Unlike cardiology or oncology, where in general one cell type is being examined using imaging or biomarkers in the blood or tissue, problems with fertility can arise from almost any organ system in the female body. And then there is an entirely different individual involved: the man.”
Leader agrees that it is very difficult to clinically establish a link between sperm count and pregnancy, until of course there is no sperm, something that is highlighted in the Reuters report itself. The article notes that, despite the finding that weight and other lifestyle factors can contribute to low sperm count, it “can't prove that overweight or obese men will have more trouble fathering a child.”
According to the ReproSource researcher, this finding is typical. “Studies of male fertility are challenging because it only takes one sperm, from the millions which a man normally provides during intercourse, to make a baby,” Leader observes. “Studies which show effect on semen parameters are often difficult to correlate to clinical pregnancy rates.”
Meanwhile, the Reuters report itself notes that the study comes with myriad complications, including the fact that obesity itself may not really be the issue; overweight men tend to have a variety of other health issues, any one of which could be the true cause of the low sperm counts.
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