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The Wrong Kind of Sugar: Study Shows Prediabetes in Men Could be Affecting Fertility

A new study published in medical journal BJU International suggest a connection between men with undiagnosed prediabetes and and infertility.

December 14, 2018
Katie Visco

The Wrong Kind of Sugar: Study Shows Prediabetes in Men Could be Affecting Fertility

Couples struggling to get pregnant should use the term “give me some sugar” sparingly

Struggling to conceive can have a wide variety of root causes - family history of infertility, stress, or individual issues from either the mother or father. Of course, your inability to conceive is not your fault, but being aware of the confounding factors than affect your fertility could be vital in finally starting the family you’ve been hoping for. Something doctors and researchers agree on as a general rule of thumb; healthier parents generally have an easier time conceiving than unhealthy couples. A new study published in medical journal BJU International suggest a connection between men with undiagnosed prediabetes and and infertility. For couples struggling with infertility, this could be a breakthrough in finally starting your family.

We’ll break it down for you. Here we’ll discuss:

  • The Findings of the Study
  • What is Prediabetes?
  • How Prediabetes Could Affect Fertility
  • What to do if You Think You’re at Risk

Study Finds Undiagnosed Prediabetes Could Lead to Fertility Issues

A breakdown of the results of the study

Blue Contour Digital Reading Device 8.4


A study released in October 2018 shows a connection between men with undiagnosed prediabetes and issues conceiving. The study included a cross-sectional study of 744 men trying to conceive. The study looked at the blood glucose levels of the men, all of which fell within the prediabetes category. This category, in more detail, breaks down to blood glucose levels:

  • Between 100 and 125 at fasting
  • Between 140 and 199 at two hours after drinking 75 grams of glucose
  • At an average hemoglobin A1C reading of at least 5.7%

The men in the study, all of which fell into this prediabetes category, reported no pregnancy after twelve months of unprotected sex with their partners

What is Prediabetes?

This common yet frequently unknown health condition could be a huge problem

Burger With Ham Ketchup

Prediabetes is, in short, the early stages of diabetes that comes from poor diet and lack of exercise. Prediabetes can lead to Type 2 diabetes if lifestyle changes are not made to lower blood glucose levels.

Though people can live with Type 2 Diabetes, it is important to detect prediabetes early to avoid a lifetime of medical complications and expensive treatment. Some characteristics of people at risk for prediabetes, according to the CDC, include:

  • High BMI, or Body Mass Index
  • Being 40 or older
  • Family History of Type 2 Diabetes
  • Inactive Lifestyle
  • Gestational Diabetes
  • Being African American, Hispanic/Latinx, Native American, or some type of Asian-American Ethnicity.

Type 2 Diabetes stems from an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise, leading to the body being unable to properly use its own supply of insulin - the hormone that allows your body to turn glucose from carbohydrates into energy that the body uses - and causes increased blood glucose levels. Increased blood glucose levels, commonly known and hypoglycemia, can lead to unconsciousness, seizures, and ketoacidosis: the release of ketones into the bloodstream that essentially changes the pH of blood into acid.

How Prediabetes Could Affect Fertility

Men’s health has a variety of connection to sperm health and fertility as a whole

Man and Woman Kissing

When it comes to conceiving, men’s health is just as important as women’s health. The ability for a man to contribute healthy sperm for egg fertilization is quite literally half the battle of getting pregnant, and therefore the importance of sperm health should not be underplayed when attempting to conceive.

Healthy sperm is classified by a variety of characteristics, including sperm counts/concentration, motility, and morphology. In other words, men need to have a sufficient number of normally-shaped, mobile sperm in order to have their sperm health considered “healthy.” However, just because a man has low sperm counts does not mean he will not be able to conceive. It just means it may sometimes be a little more difficult.

The study was not designed to evaluate the connection to prediabetes and unhealthy sperm. However, the study did gain valuable insight into impaired hormonal, metabolic, and seminal profiles of infertile men with prediabetes. This allowed the scientists to draw conclusions regarding the connection between the oxidative stress, impaired insulin, and glucose metabolism in prediabetic men and impaired testicular metabolism that leads to fertility issues in men. In other words, many of the issues caused of prediabetes and diabetes as a whole could lead to modifications in testicular metabolism that cause infertility.

What to Do You Think Prediabetes Could be Affecting Your Fertility

Lifestyle changes and steps to take to preserve your health and fertility

Baby Approaching Men's Black Sunglasses

The first step to determining your fertility is getting a fertility workup. This is recommended for men struggling to conceive with a partner younger than 35 for a year or more, or with a partner older than 35 for six months. Doctors will then be able to analyze possible sources of infertility in both partners, including blood glucose levels to see is prediabetes is a possible source of infertility.

Regardless of fertility status, if you are at risk for prediabetes, it’s worth making lifestyle changes to avoid potentially becoming prediabetic or being diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. Doctors recommend working to lose 5-7% of your current body weight, using healthy cooking methods (like baking, steaming, grilling, and roasting rather than frying), and getting at least 30 minutes of exercise five days a week.

If you are concerned that prediabetes could be affecting your ability to conceive, talk to your doctors. Making lifestyle changes to become healthier is vital in becoming a healthier couple able to conceive, and in the long term: a healthier parent to your future children.

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