Childhood obesity may lead to reduced reproductive capacity


A recent, dramatic increase in childhood obesity may have impacts that go beyond immediate health concerns. Childhood obesity could disrupt the timing of puberty and ultimately lead to a diminished ability to reproduce. This is especially true for females.

Our bodies have not caught up to socio-evolutionary change

Obesity is found in a body of research as one of the common symptoms of infertility in addition to other physical and psycho-social concerns. Human bodies are designed to deal with starvation and poor nutrition. The recent decades of readily available food have changed our eating habits, but evolutionarily, our bodies have not caught up.

Extremes in weight affect fertility

“The issue of so many humans being obese is very recent in evolutionary terms, and since nutritional status is important to reproduction, metabolic syndromes caused by obesity may profoundly affect reproductive capacity,” explained Patrick Chappell, assistant professor of veterinary medicine at Oregon State University and author of the report. “Either extreme of the spectrum, anorexia or obesity, can be associated with reproduction problems.”

Girls starting puberty earlier

Some researchers are looking at how obesity affects puberty and major organs like the liver, pancreas and other endocrine glands. The mechanisms are not entirely understood, but it does appear that for some reason, puberty is starting earlier in girls. “Any disruption of circadian clocks throughout the body can cause a number of problems, and major changes in diet and metabolism can affect these cellular clocks,” Chappell said. “Disruption of the clock through diet can even feed into a further disruption of normal metabolism, making the damage worse, as well as affecting sleep and reproduction.”

Natural cycles of limited reproduction

Many mammals make reproductive adjustments during famine. Fewer babies are born when there is less food to feed them. It may be that infertility will cycle through as a result of too much stored fat. The body may interpret that as an overabundance of food and therefore bodies. A natural population control.

Source: MedicalNewsToday, Frontiers in Endocrinology


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