While the push for achieving healthy weight for pregnancies has mostly focused on mothers, researchers in Melbourne, Australia, have found that a father’s health can dramatically affect sperm and fetal development. According to research by the University of Melbourne’s Department of Zoology, a father’s obesity can negatively impact sperm, pregnancy success, and placental and fetal development.
The World Health Organization states that the rate of unhealthy weight and obesity of adult men in Australia has tripled over three decades to 75% (the global average is 48%).
“A lot of men don’t understand what contribution they’re having [in pregnancy], but they need to be healthy before conceiving,” says researcher Professor David Gardner. “Sperm needs to be match fit for the games of life and creating life is the biggest thing that we can do.”
Animal Studies in Obesity and Fertility
Using in vitro fertilization (IVF), Dr. Gardner and his colleagues studied the effects of paternal obesity on embryo implantation into the womb and subsequent fetal development. The animal study used two groups of male mice—one of healthy weight and one of obese mice fed the equivalent of a western fast food diet for several weeks. Embryo implantation into the womb and fetal development for groups with obese fathers had lowered rates—up to 15%, according to PhD candidate Natalie Binder.
“Furthermore, placental weight and development was significantly less for embryos derived from the sperm of obese males,” she adds. “Paternal obesity not only negatively affects embryo development, but also impacts on the successful implantation into the womb.”
And this isn’t the only research showing how obesity can significantly affect unborn children in a negative way. Other research has drawn a direct link between obese mothers and autistic babies, finding that overweight pregnant women have a startling 67% higher chance of having an autistic child than those who are not. In the study, the researchers note that the extreme prevalency of obesity in the United States is serious cause for alarm, as autism rates continue to skyrocket.
Hidden Causes of Obesity
The western diet isn’t alone to blame for the modern obesity epidemic, unfortunately. Here are some surprising culprits behind obesity and weight gain in the modern era:
- Shampoo, plastic, and pesticides containing chemicals like bisphenol-A, phthalates, PCBs, POPs, and other endocrine disrupters