Body Fat and your Fertility

Fats in general are a divisive issue and so is body weight. Hopefully the most recent post on the types of fats, will help you understand the good from the bad. In this post, we will talk about body weight and optimising this to help you conceive.

Fat cells in the body, called adipocytes produce oestrogen (the adrenals and gonads also produce oestrogen).

This is normal and part of how the body operates. Oestrogens are primary female reproductive messengers (but men have and use them as well). Oestrogen is essential for healthy bone formation, healthy gene expression, maintaining healthy cholesterol levels and is vital for a healthy menstrual cycle.

It is all about balance:

As you can imagine, our body weight/ fat cells, gonadal performance and our adrenal glands (which produce some oestrogen in men and women) will determine how much oestrogen is pumped into the blood stream. If we are underweight, we will not have enough oestrogen and if we are overweight, we will produce too much. This is a well established reproductive fact at this stage. Imagine it as 3 conveyor belts all to produce X amount to get 3X at the end. If one of these production lines produces too much, it will cause problems and other issues are caused when we produce too little.

As usual, it is all about balance. If you are an average human being, the BMI is quick and easy. By all means, if you are unsure or want something more scientific there are more accurate tests, from the old fashioned callipers to more advanced testing machines. As a note, in women who are underweight, it is not uncommon for them to develop Amenorrhea (the absence of menstruation), or menstruation might continue but ovulation might cease. Just something to look into, if you think it might be you.

What happens if you are overweight and what problems does it cause?

The two most common problems in women who are overweight are excess oestrogen and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). It is common to have an increased luteal phase defect as well.

Excess Oestrogen: Fat cells produce oestrogen. Excess oestrogen in the body, can have an effect  similar to birth control and the pill. This is the main problem in cases of excess oestrogen or oestrogen dominance. Excess oestrogen will lead to inadequate ovulation. An inadequate ovulation contributes to LPD, mentioned below.

PCOS: This is a endocrine disorder with any combination of  symptoms. These symptoms include irregular cycles, cysts in/ on the ovaries, ovulatory pain, anovulation, acne, excess body hair (face, chest, below navel, toes), heavy and painful periods, as well as a high LH-FSH ratio. A lot of PCOS cases exist for years without being detected!!!

LPD: A luteal phase defect is a disruption in a woman’s monthly menstrual cycle. This phase is just one phase in the menstrual cycle. The luteal phase occurs after ovulation, when the ovaries release an egg and before menstruation starts. At this point, the lining of your uterus normally becomes thicker to prepare for a possible pregnancy. If this is the case, the lining of your uterus does not grow properly each month. This can make it difficult to become or remain pregnant, although there is a debate about whether this is a direct cause of infertility.

Men and weight

Low-Testosterone-Weight-GainMen will have a similar issue, but this time with testosterone. Men who are obese, generally have lower testosterone in their blood stream, negatively impacting on their fertility. Overweight and obese men have poorer sperm quality than men of healthy weight. Being overweight or obese can also cause hormonal changes that reduce fertility and make men less interested in sex. Men who are very overweight are also more likely to have problems getting an erection.

Together, these factors reduce the chances of men who are overweight or obese fathering a child. Being underweight can also reduce a man’s sperm quality and therefore his fertility. A BMI under 18.5 is classified as ‘underweight’.

At this point, we normally make recommendations on what to do or where to go. In this instance, regular examination of your sex hormones can be beneficial, sometimes we need to face facts and do some hard work. Consult your doctor, a nutritionist and possibly a trainer or fitness instructor. I always recommend so and steady, gradually increasing your exercise routine – we have all jumped into two or three days of heavy training and quickly we come to the realisation of, ‘sod that.’ Work at your own pace and in your own time.


Mark Whitney

Mark Whitney is the Managing Director of Pillar Healthcare. Pillar have developed Europe's most therapeutic nutritional supplement for improving fertility. pre-Conceive has been heralded as "A new hope for couples trying to conceive," and is backed by fertility clinics, embryologists, doctors, pharmacists and more. Mark has worked as a nutritional therapist managing his own clinic and for some of the larger nutritional based companies.