Childhood obesity has become much more prevalent in today’s society. The rate of childhood obesity has more than tripled since the early 1970s. Since obesity increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, we have also witnessed the rate of childhood type 2 diabetes increase as well. Childhood obesity is also associated with several other disorder which include the metabolic syndrome, lipid disorders, and heart disease. In addition, childhood obesity can result is emotional problems, low self-esteem, and social isolation. In adult men, it has been found that obesity and type 2 diabetes is associated with low testosterone levels.
Researchers, led by Dr. Paresh Dandona of the University of Buffalo, have found that obesity in teenage boys causes low testosterone levels which can increase the risk of impotence and infertility. The results of their study were published online in the journal Clinical Endocrinology. The researchers obtained morning fasting blood samples from 25 obese males and 25 lean males aged 14 to 20 years of age with Tanner stage greater than four. Total and free testosterone, estradiol, C-reactive protein, insulin, glucose, and insulin resistance were measured. The researchers found that obese teenage boys had 50% lower testosterone levels when compared to their lean counterparts.
The authors wrote, “Our data clearly show that obese young pubertal and post pubertal males have significantly lower total and free [testosterone] concentrations compared to their lean counterparts”.
The authors conclude that “obese pubertal and post-pubertal males with Tanner staging ≥4 have significantly lower [total testosterone], [free testosterone] and [sex hormone binding globulin] concentrations in whom [luteinizing hormone] and [follicle stimulating hormone] concentrations are also inappropriately low… In view of the rising prevalence of obesity, the association of significantly lower [testosterone] concentrations with obesity in males is alarming and points to major public health problem”.
The lead author of the study, Dr. Paresh Dandona was quoted as saying “The implications of our findings are, frankly, horrendous because these boys are potentially impotent and infertile. The message is a grim one with massive epidemiological implications… These findings demonstrate that the effect of obesity is powerful, even in the young, and that lifestyle and nutritional intake starting in childhood have major repercussions throughout all stages of life”.
This study highlights the impact of obesity in childhood and identifies another health problem that can be associated with the condition. The implications of this finding are severe and could influence the adult health of obese teenage boys. Testosterone deficiency can possibly lead to impotence and infertility in adulthood. The findings of the study will need to be reproduced on a larger scale, but suggest that obesity in childhood influences hormonal physiology as well as the known metabolic disorders. Futures studies should determine if weight loss during childhood can reverse the low testosterone levels observed in this study.
Muniza Mogri et al. “Testosterone Concentrations in Young Pubertal and Post-Pubertal Obese Males” Clinical Endocrinology published online ahead of print doi: 10.1111/cen.12018