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Male Infertility: New Study Finds A Clue From Childhood

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New research helps to explain why young men have a high rate of reduced testicular size.

New research indicates that more careful weight management during childhood and adolescence may help avoid male infertility in adulthood.

The findings were presented today at ENDO 2022, the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting 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 are normal weight and insulin levels.

“More careful control of body weight in childhood and adolescence may help to maintain testicular function later in life,” noted Rossella Cannarella, lead researcher.

Male infertility is on the rise, and the average sperm count has dropped by half globally in the last 40 years for no apparent cause, she claims.

Sperm count and testicular volume (a measure of testicle size) are inextricably linked. This means that smaller testicles produce less sperm. Low testicular volume, or smaller-than-normal testicles, affects up to a quarter of young males aged 18-19. According to Cannarella, this puts their future fertility at jeopardy. At the same time, childhood obesity has become more common.

She stated, “This evidence suggests a possible link between childhood obesity and the high prevalence of low testicular volume in youngsters.”

To investigate for a potential link between low testicular volume and obesity, the team measured testicular volume in 53 overweight children and teens and 150 obese. Their findings were compared to those of 61 healthy peers of the same age. In comparison to their obese or overweight counterparts, boys and teenagers with a normal weight had a much bigger testicular volume.

The study also looked at the impact of metabolic abnormalities associated with obesity, such as insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia, on testicular volume. Insulin resistance occurs when the body’s reaction to insulin is hindered, resulting in high blood glucose levels. Hyperinsulinemia is a condition in which the body’s insulin levels are unusually high. The testicular volume of children and teenagers with normal insulin levels was substantially higher than that of those with hyperinsulinemia. Insulin resistance was associated with reduced testicular volume in post-puberty adolescents compared to those who did not have insulin resistance.

“These findings help to explain the reason for the high prevalence of decreased testicular size in young men,” Cannarella added.

The findings of the study help “to explain the reason for the high prevalence of decreased testicular size in young men,” Cannarella said.

Image Credit: Getty

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