Sperm counts have shown a progressive decline across the world since the mid-1900s. Global rates of obesity have been climbing at a similarly alarming rate, suggesting that these two factors may be linked. However, studies examining the relationship between body mass index (BMI) and male fertility have produced conflicting results. These discrepancies among studies are commonly attributed to limitations that are inherent in human studies such as correlational data and confounding factors-limitations that are absent from animal studies. Hence, we conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of animal studies that experimentally induced obesity with a high-fat diet and measured impacts on sperm traits and/or male fertility. Overall, we found strong, consistent evidence in animal studies that high-fat diets are detrimental for male fertility. Compared with controls, males fed a high-fat diet had smaller testes and sex accessory glands relative to body size, reduced semen quality, reduced mating success, and reduced fertilization success. This is the first time that experimental data of high-fat diet effects on male reproduction have been synthesized in a meta-analysis, and thus, our results provide novel insight to the complex question of how dietary-induced obesity affects male fertility. The strong negative effects detected in animal models suggest that the inconsistent results plaguing human studies are an artefact of limitations inherent in correlational studies rather than a true effect.
Obesity reviews : an official journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity. 2019 Feb 12 [Epub ahead of print]
Angela J Crean, Alistair M Senior
Sydney School of Veterinary Science, The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia., Charles Perkins Centre, The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia.