This one’s for the men. According to Melbourne scientists studying the impact obesity has on pregnancy, men should get ‘match fit’ before conceiving, to assist with fetal development.
According to these reproductive experts from the University of Melbourne’s Department of Zoology, a father’s obesity negatively impacts sperm, resulting in smaller fetuses, poor pregnancy success and reduced placental development.
Unlike previous studies looking at women’s weight before and during pregnancy, these scientists are putting the onus on men to shape up, before conception.
In South Africa, the overall prevalence of obesity is high. In 2008, a total of 31.3% of South Africans were obese and 65.4% overweight. South African women are far heavier than the men – 41% of women are obese and 71.8% overweight, while 21% of men are obese and 58.5% overweight.
Australia too has a weight problem. According to Professor David Gardner, one of the conductors of the research, “the rate of obesity among men of reproductive age has more than tripled in the last three decades.”
“A lot of men don’t understand what contribution they’re having, but they need to be healthy before conceiving. Sperm needs to be match fit for the games of life and creating life is the biggest thing that we can do,” he added.
The study used in vitro fertilization (IVF) on animals to determine the effects of paternal obesity on embryo implantation into the womb and fetal development.
PhD candidate Natalie Binder generated embryos from both normal weight and obese male mice – the latter had been fed the equivalent of a western fast food diet for ten weeks.
“We found that development was delayed in the fetuses produced from obese fathers. The rate of embryo implantation into the womb and fetal development decreased in these animals by up to 15 per cent,” she said.
“Furthermore, placental weight and development was significantly less for embryos derived from the sperm of obese males.
“These findings indicate that paternal obesity not only negatively affects embryo development, but also impacts on the successful implantation into the womb.
“This then results in a small placenta which impairs fetal growth and development with long term consequences for the health of the offspring.
“Our study provides more information about the impact of obesity in men and their ability to start a family and the need to shed kilos in preparation to conceive.”