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Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2011 Mar 11;9:32. doi: 10.1186/1477-7827-9-32.

Diet-induced obesity in rats leads to a decrease in sperm motility.

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  • 1Graduate Program in Cell and Structural Biology, Institute of Biology, University of Campinas (UNICAMP), Campinas, SP, Brazil.



Obesity is rapidly becoming a worldwide epidemic that affects children and adults. Some studies have shown a relationship between obesity and infertility, but until now it remains controversial. Thus, the aim of the present study was to investigate the effect of high-fat diet-induced obesity on male reproductive parameters.


In a first experiment, male Wistar rats were fed a high-fat diet (HFD) or standard chow (SD) for 15, 30 or 45 weeks, after which they were evaluated by adiposity index, serum leptin levels, reproductive organ weights and sperm counts. In a second experiment, rats received HFD or SD only for 15 weeks, long enough to cause obesity. Sexual hormones and sexual behavior were evaluated in these animals, as well as fertility after natural mating. Another group of rats was submitted to motility analysis and fertility evaluation after in utero insemination.


After 15, 30 or 45 weeks, HFD-fed animals presented significant increases in obesity index and serum leptin levels. Reproductive organ weights and sperm counts in the testis and epididymis were similar between the two groups at all timepoints studied. Sexual behavior was not altered by the diet regimen, and HFD fertility after natural mating was also similar to SD-fed animals. Intergroup testosterone levels were also comparable, but estradiol levels were increased in HFD rats. Furthermore, sperm quality was reduced in HFD animals as evidenced by their decreased percentage of sperm with progressive movement. This altered motility parameter was followed by a trend toward reduction in fertility potential after artificial in utero insemination.


The results reported herein showed that obesity can affect sperm quality, by reducing sperm motility, without affecting other sperm parameters. The low sperm quality caused a slight reduction in fertility potential, showing that obesity may lead to impairment in male fertility.

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