A piece in today’s Telegraph:
Boys who are born to overweight mothers could be 40 per cent more likely to be infertile in adulthood, new research suggests.
Obesity causes a number of changes in the body which can also impact on a growing foetus – leading to inflammation.
It is believed resulting hormone disruptions or mineral deficiency also slow the unborn child’s development.
This latest research, published in Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica, found sons whose mothers had a BMI (body mass index) of 25 or more pre-pregnancy face a 40 percent greater risk of infertility.
This is compared to those whose mothers had a normal BMI of 18.5 to 24.9. The increased risk did not apply to daughters.
The Danish study was based on 9,232 adults whose mothers were pregnant between 1984-97.
Participants were sons and daughters who were tracked in the Danish In-Vitro-Fertilization-Register and Danish National Patient Register until February 2018 for diagnoses of infertility.
Lead author Dr Linn Arendt, of Aarhus University, said: “These findings add to evidence that weight during pregnancy may also affect male future reproductive health.”
Infertility has soared in the past three decades and the obesity epidemic could be fuelling it, she said.
Around one in eight (12.5 per cent) couples are now affected by infertility, defined as unsuccessfully attempting to conceive for a year or longer.
A third of cases are caused by the man’s reproductive issues, and a similar number by the woman’s. The rest are a combination of both or due to unknown factors.
Dr Arendt said: “Prevention of overweight during pregnancy may be an important tool to preserve fecundity in future generations.”
Almost one in ten (9.4 per cent) of the study participants were infertile. Factors including the mother’s age, smoking history and alcohol consumption were taken into account in the results.
Dr Arendt said: “Maternal overweight could affect the offspring’s reproductive health through several potential mechanisms.
“Fatty tissue is hormonally active, and foetal exposure to, for example, leptin, androgens and oestrogens has been suggested to interfere with development of the reproductive system and induce changes which might not manifest until sexual maturity.
“Some endocrine-disrupting chemicals accumulate in adipose tissue and may become bioavailable and enter the maternal and the foetal bloodstream during remodelling of maternal fat stores during pregnancy.
“Obesity is also associated with low-grade metabolic inflammation, a proposed factor in programming of reproductive fitness early in life.”
These findings are believed to be the first of their kind to find a link between maternal weight during pregnancy and infertility in their sons or daughters.
Dr Arendt added: “This study supports the hypothesis that maternal overweight affects reproductive health in male offspring, but further studies are needed.”
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