A recent study reveals that controlling body weight more carefully during childhood and adolescence might help avoid male infertility later in life.
The findings will be presented at the annual conference of the Endocrine Society in Atlanta, Georgia. The study discovered that children and adolescents who are overweight or obese, or who have high levels of insulin or insulin resistance, had smaller testicles than their counterparts who have normal weight and insulin levels.
“More careful control of body weight in childhood and adolescence may help to maintain testicular function later in life,” said lead researcher Rossella Cannarella, M.D., of the University of Catania in Italy.
Sperm count is closely connected to testicular volume (a measure of testicle size). This means that smaller testicles generate fewer sperm. One-quarter of young males between the ages of 18 and 19 have low testicular volume or smaller-than-normal testicles. According to Cannarella, this jeopardises their future fertility. Simultaneously, the prevalence of childhood obesity has grown.
“This evidence suggests a possible link between childhood obesity and the high prevalence of low testicular volume in youngsters,” she said.
To investigate for a possible relationship between low testicular volume and obesity, the researchers measured testicular volume in 53 overweight children and teenagers and 150 obese children and teens. Their findings were compared to those of 61 age-matched healthy peers. Boys and teenagers with normal weight had considerably bigger testicular volume than their obese or overweight classmates.
Testicular volume and insulin
The researchers also investigated the impact of obesity-related metabolic abnormalities, such as insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia, on testicular volume. Insulin resistance is the body’s poor reaction to insulin, which results in high blood glucose levels.
Hyperinsulinemia is abnormally high levels of insulin in the body. Children and teens with normal insulin levels had significantly higher testicular volume compared to those with hyperinsulinemia. Post-puberty teens with insulin resistance had lower testicular volume compared to those without insulin resistance.
“These findings help to explain the reason for the high prevalence of decreased testicular size in young men,” Cannarella said.
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