Did you know that obesity affects fertility? Find out how, and get tips on how to get back on track, in this month’s Fertility Logia.
Fertility Logia: Obesity is on the rise
Obesity is on the rise. Look at these staggering statistics from the National Institute of Health:
- More than 2 of 3 adults are overweight or obese
- More than 1 in 3 adults are considered obese
- More than 1 in 20 adults are considered to have extreme obesity
- 1 in 3 children age 6-19 years old, are overweight or obese
- More than 1 in 6 children age 6-19 years old are considered obese
Body Mass Index (BMI) is a measure of being overweight and takes into account height and weight.
- If someone is 5 feet 4 inches and weighs 125 pounds, her BMI is 21.5
- If she weighs 145 pounds, BMI is 25
- If she weighs 200 pounds, BMI is 34
- If she weighs 240 pounds, BMI is 41.2
- If she weighs 300 pounds, BMI is 51.5
Effects of obesity on fertility
When trying to get pregnant, weight affects both men and women. Pan Metron Ariston. Everything in moderation. It applies to many things but definitely to eating and weight. The obesity pandemic requires evaluation of cause, consequence and solution as described by David Meldrum, MD. (FertilSteril vol 107, no 4 April 2017, p 833).
When we eat a high calorie or “obesogenic diet”, with less exercise, we become fat. Super-sizing and what is called a “built environment” — people movers such as elevators, escalators — makes the weight of the average person skyrocket. All kinds of things happen and the body’s protective mechanisms go haywire. If someone is heavy, the chances of getting colon and breast cancer go up considerably. Moreover, weight loss reduces the chance of getting cancer. Heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and sudden death all increase with obesity. Those who are obese will die at least 6 years sooner.
Obesity can wreak havoc on your fertility. Let’s look at some fertility issues that obesity causes, in both women and men.
Obesity and fertility: women
- Disrupts hormones, which can stop ovulation.
- Damages the egg and its DNA. The machinery of an egg which is supposed to accept sperm DNA and make an embryo, is called a meiotic spindle. It becomes disorganized and disarrayed with obesity,which messes up the DNA in the developing embryo.
- Inflames follicles which become polluted with fat and inflammation. The follicle is where the egg lives and thus is now soaking in inflamed fluid. Yuck.
- Inflames the uterine lining. When someone is heavy, the womb is less sticky resulting in less chance of implantation, lower ability to hold on to an embryo, and higher miscarriage rates.
- Changes DNA of the future baby. By being obese, the parent now changes the DNA of the future baby forever by turning on genes that make the child fat from the get go. This is referred to as epigenetic changes.
Obesity and fertility: men
- Alters androgen hormones and promotes poor sperm quality, which means a man is then 1.5 times more likely to have fertility concerns.
- Causes inflammation in the body, which can lead to genetic mutations in sperm.
13 tips to help you get back on track
Let’s get you back on track! Here are some solutions to reduce obesity, which can help your fertility.
- Lose weight. Weight loss helps fertility and increases chance that the women will conceive.
- Get moving. Exercise results in higher pregnancy rates and live birth rates. Try to exercise at least 3 times per week. Get your heart rate up and sweat. It’s good for you!
- Watch what you eat. Give attention to dietary factors that include a Mediterranean diet. This also means no white food (pasta breads, sugars, etc.). 17,000 women in a Nurses Health Study showed that with a good diet, they had less infertility.
- Talk to your doctor about other health issues and solutions. Bariatric Surgery may help fertility, especially women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, however, this needs to be further studied in regards to fertility.
- Get your zzz’s. Sleep 8 hours.
- Skip the couch. Watch less TV.
- Don’t skip meals. Eat breakfast.
- Swap something unhealthy for something healthy. Exchange a piece of fruit instead of French fries or hashbrowns.
- Don’t clean your plate. Leave something on your plate. Don’t eat everything.
- Eat Slowly. Your sense of hunger needs time to sense the food you just ate, and realize the stomach is full.
- No more “all you can eat”. Stop going to buffets, and avoid 2nds.
- Drink less alcohol. In particular, beer has maltose causing the beer belly, which can lead to other issues.
- Minimize desserts. Skip the baklava.
Is that treat really worth it?
We must strive to maintain health. Keep your eye on the big picture. Make responsible choices each and every day to keep your most precious asset, your SOMA (body), as healthy as possible. It will help your overall health, which in turn will optimize your fertility.
Angeline N. Beltsos, MD is CEO and Medical Director of Vios Fertility Institute. She is board certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology and in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility (REI), practicing medicine since 1991. Dr. Beltsos is also the Clinical Research Division Director of Vios and participates in a number of research projects and scientific publications. She has received numerous awards in teaching and has been honored as “Top Doctor” from Castle Connelly for several years. She is a popular speaker, both nationally and internationally, and a frequent media resource on the topic of infertility. She is the executive chairperson for the Midwest Reproductive Symposium International, an international conference of fertility experts. Dr. Beltsos is also a contributor to Thrive Global.
As the REI Division Education Director for the Obstetrics and Gynecology residency programs of Illinois Masonic Medical Center, Lutheran General Hospital, and St. Joseph’s Hospital Chicago, Dr. Beltsos helps educate future OB/GYN doctors. She is a Clinical Assistant Professor for the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at University of Illinois at Chicago.
Fertility Logia is an ongoing series exclusive to WindyCity Greek. Read more from Dr. Angeline Beltsos, MD: