No association between body mass index and sperm DNA integrity

I. Bandel, M. Bungum, J. Richtoff, J. Malm, J. Axelsson, H.S. Pedersen, J.K. Ludwicki, K. Czaja, A. Hernik, G. Toft, J.P. Bonde, M. Spanò, G. Malm, T.B. Haugen, A. Giwercman

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STUDY QUESTION Is overweight associated with impaired sperm DNA integrity? SUMMARY ANSWER High body mass index (BMI) is not associated with impaired sperm DNA integrity as assessed by the DNA Fragmentation Index (DFI). WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY Previous studies, based on fewer subjects and including mainly subfertile men, have shown conflicting results regarding the influence of overweight and obesity on sperm DNA integrity. STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION This cross-sectional study was based on semen samples from 1503 men from the general population. PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS We included two cohorts (cohort A and B) of military recruits (n = 275, n = 304, respectively), one group (cohort C) of fertile men and men without known fertility problems (n = 724), and one group (cohort D) of men between 19 and 40 years without known fertility problems (n = 200). In all cohorts, data were available on BMI, DFI as measured by the sperm chromatin structure assay (SCSA), standard semen characteristics, and potential confounders (age, abstinence time, smoking habits). The subjects were categorized according to BMI into four groups: underweight ( 20% and DFI > 30%, were calculated for the other groups. Calculations were made for the material as a whole and after exclusion of cohort C which included proven fertile men. MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE We found that normal-weight men had significantly higher DFI than overweight men, with a mean difference of 1.13% (95% CI: 1.05-1.22%); P = 0.001). Overweight men had a reduced risk of having DFI ≥ 20% and DFI ≥ 30%, compared with normal-weight men; adjusted odds ratio (OR) = 0.61 (95% CI: 0.42-0.88; P < 0.01) and adjusted OR = 0.48 (95% CI: 0.28-0.84; P < 0.01), respectively. When excluding cohort C, the statistical significance was lost. Regarding standard semen parameters, we found that obese men had a higher percentage of progressive motile spermatozoa than normal-weight men; mean difference 1.15% (95% CI: 1.02-1.30%, P < 0.05) but the significance was lost when excluding cohort C. All other standard semen parameters were unaffected by BMI. LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION A main limitation might be the cross-sectional nature of the data. Furthermore our study included a significant proportion of men with proven fertility (75% of cohort C, n = 550), and could therefore be biased toward fertility. WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS Our study indicates that overweight per se is not associated with a higher level of sperm DNA damage. STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTEREST(S) This research has been given grants from the following: EU 5th and 7th framework program (Inuendo and Clear projects, [Contracts no. QLK4-CT-2001-00202 and FP7-ENV-2008-1-226217)]), the Swedish Research Council (Grants No. 2007-2590, 521-2004-6072 and 521-2002-3907); the Swedish Governmental Funding for Clinical Research, Skåne county council's research and development foundation, MAS Funds, University Hospital MAS Foundation in Malmö, Crafoordska Fund, Ove Tulefjords Fund, Foundation for Urological Research, Fundacion Federico SA, and Gunnar Nilssons Cancer Fund. The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1704 - 1713
Number of pages10
JournalHuman Reproduction
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2 Feb 2015
Externally publishedYes


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology

Cite this

Bandel, I., Bungum, M., Richtoff, J., Malm, J., Axelsson, J., Pedersen, H. S., ... Giwercman, A. (2015). No association between body mass index and sperm DNA integrity. Human Reproduction, 30(7), 1704 - 1713.