- The Washington Times - Friday, September 1, 2006

Gentlemen, here’s yet another reason to swear off the potato chips and trim down. Even a little extra weight can affect fertility, according to research released yesterday by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

“Men with increased body mass index were significantly more likely to be infertile than normal-weight men,” the research said.

“The data suggest that a 20-pound increase in men’s weight may increase the chance of infertility by about 10 percent,” said lead investigator Markku Sallmen, a public health epidemiologist who analyzed the weight, health and reproductive histories of 1,468 farmers and their wives over a period of 13 years.

The study by the NIEHS, which is part of the National Institutes of Health, was limited to couples younger than 40 who had attempted a pregnancy.

“Women who are overweight or obese tend to have a more difficult time becoming pregnant than normal-weight women, but whether men who are overweight or obese also have fertility problems had not been studied,” said Donna Baird, also an epidemiologist with the study.

It found that 28 percent of the couples had experienced infertility because of such influences as age, cigarette smoking, alcohol intake and solvent or pesticide exposure. The researchers concluded that a man’s weight “was an independent risk factor for infertility” regardless of age.

Heavier men, in fact, were almost twice as likely to experience infertility as their slimmer counterparts, said the study published in the September issue of Epidemiology, a medical journal.

The researchers said they did not have data on “frequency of sexual intercourse,” but that other studies “show lower semen quality for overweight and obese men, as well as hormonal differences.”

Meanwhile, obesity in the young has been linked to lower IQ scores, cognitive delays and brain lesions similar to those seen in Alzheimer’s patients, according to a University of Florida study released yesterday. Researchers suspect metabolic disturbances that accompany obesity could compromise developing young brains.

They compared 18 children who weighed at least 150 percent of their ideal body weight by age 4 with 24 leaner children. The heavier youngsters tended to score poorly on standard IQ tests; many of their brain scans also showed “white matter brain lesions” typically found on the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.

“We feel this may be another complication of obesity that may not be reversible, so it’s very important to watch what children eat from a very young age. It’s not just setting them up for problems later on; it could affect their learning potential now,” said Dr. Daniel J. Driscoll, a pediatrician and lead author of the study, published in the Journal of Pediatrics.

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