According to a recent study published in the European Journal of Endocrinology by Oxford University Press, boys who are overweight exhibit a decrease in testicular volume, potentially putting them at risk of experiencing infertility in their adult years.The impact of infertility is felt not only on the psychological well-being but also on the economic and social lives of individuals of childbearing age.It is estimated that approximately 48 million couples experienced infertility in 2010.While male infertility is often overlooked, researchers suggest it contributes to infertility in nearly half of all cases. However, the underlying cause of male infertility remains uncertain in most cases.A German study that examined over 20,000 male patients referred to a fertility center found that around 70% of them could not be diagnosed with any infertility condition.This indicates a significant percentage of childless male patients without a clear explanation for their infertility. Furthermore, studies indicate a decreasing trend in sperm concentration and total sperm count over the past four decades, with a simultaneous rise in childhood obesity worldwide.It is estimated that 60% of children will be obese by the age of 35, which may contribute to this phenomenon.According to recent Italian surveys, a significant number of young men between the ages of 18-19 may be at risk for future fertility issues due to testicular hypotrophy. This condition has been linked to various environmental factors, such as exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals, as well as personal habits like a sedentary lifestyle or eating disorders.Additionally, the impact of obesity and metabolic disorders on testicular growth during childhood remains unclear. To investigate this further, researchers conducted a retrospective cross-sectional study on children and adolescents aged 2 to 18 years who were referred to the Unit of Pediatric Endocrinology at the University of Catania in Sicily for body weight control.The study conducted on 268 children and adolescents investigated the relationship between testicular volume and various factors such as age, body mass index (BMI), insulin resistance, and weight. The study found that boys with normal weight had testicular volumes that were 1.5 times larger compared to those who were overweight or obese during the peripubertal age. Similarly, children and adolescents who had normal insulin levels had testicular volumes that were 1.5 to 2 times higher compared to those with hyperinsulinemia, a condition commonly associated with type 2 diabetes, which is characterized by elevated insulin levels in the blood.The study suggests that overweight or obese individuals, those with hyperinsulinemia or insulin resistance, have lower testicular volumes compared to their healthy peers. This is significant because lower testicular volume is associated with poorer sperm production in adulthood, which can lead to infertility. Therefore, the researchers believe that weight loss could be a beneficial strategy for those who are at risk of infertility in the future.In conclusion, the study suggests that maintaining a healthy weight and normal insulin levels can help improve testicular volume in children and adolescents, which can potentially prevent infertility later in life.“Although the prevalence of childhood obesity is increasing worldwide, the impact of obesity and associated metabolic disorders on testicular growth is not well known,” points out author Rossella Cannarella.“In this study, we found that being overweight or obese was associated with a lower peri-pubertal testicular volume. In addition, obesity-related comorbidities, such as hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance, have been found to influence testicular volume in pre- and post-puberty.“Therefore, we speculate that more careful control of body weight in childhood could represent a prevention strategy for maintaining testicular function later in life.’Source: 10.1093/ejendo/lvad033Image Credit: Getty