Doctoral thesis: Overweight men are lowering birth rates | University of Tartu

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Contacts of UT units

Faculty of Arts and Humanities
Faculty phone: 
+372 737 5341
Faculty address: 
Jakobi 2, rooms 116–121, 51005 Tartu
  • Dean's Office
    Faculty phone: 
    + 372 737 5341
    Faculty address: 
    Jakobi 2, rooms 116–121, 51005 Tartu
  • Institute of History and Archaeology
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5651
    Faculty address: 
    Jakobi 2, 51005 Tartu
  • Institute of Estonian and General Linguistics
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5221
    Faculty address: 
    Jakobi 2, 51005 Tartu
  • Institute of Philosophy and Semiotics
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5314
    Faculty address: 
    Jakobi 2, rooms 309–352, 51005 Tartu
  • Institute of Cultural Research
    Faculty phone: 
    (+372) 737 5223
    Faculty address: 
    Ülikooli 16, 51003 Tartu
  • School of Theology and Religious Studies
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5301
    Faculty address: 
    Ülikooli 18–310, 50090 Tartu
  • College of Foreign Languages and Cultures
    Faculty address: 
    J. Liivi 4, 50409, Tartu
  • Viljandi Culture Academy
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 435 5232
    Faculty address: 
    Posti 1, 71004 Viljandi
Faculty of Social Sciences
Faculty phone: 
+372 737 5957
Faculty address: 
Lossi 36, 51003 Tartu
  • Dean's Office
    Faculty phone: 
    + 372 737 5900
    Faculty address: 
    Lossi 36, 51003 Tartu
  • Institute of Education
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 6440
    Faculty address: 
    Salme 1a–29, 50103 Tartu
  • Johan Skytte Institute of Political Studies
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5582
    Faculty address: 
    Lossi 36–301, 51003 Tartu
  • School of Economics and Business Administration
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 6310
    Faculty address: 
    Narva mnt 18, 51009 Tartu
  • Institute of Psychology
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5902
    Faculty address: 
    Näituse 2, 50409 Tartu
  • School of Law
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    Näituse 20–324, 50409 Tartu
  • Institute of Social Studies
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    Lossi 36, 51003 Tartu
  • Narva College
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    Raekoja plats 2, 20307 Narva
  • Pärnu College
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    Ringi 35, 80012 Pärnu
Faculty of Medicine
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+372 737 5326
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Ravila 19, 50411 Tartu
  • Dean's Office
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5326
    Faculty address: 
    Ravila 19, 50411 Tartu
  • Institute of Biomedicine and Translational Medicine
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    +372 737 4210
    Faculty address: 
    Biomeedikum, Ravila 19, 50411 Tartu
  • Institute of Pharmacy
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    Nooruse 1, 50411 Tartu
  • Institute of Dentistry
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    +372 731 9856
    Faculty address: 
    Raekoja plats 6, 51003 Tartu
  • Institute of Clinical Medicine
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    +372 737 5323
    Faculty address: 
    L. Puusepa 8, 50406 Tartu
  • Institute of Family Medicine and Public Health
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 4190
    Faculty address: 
    Ravila 19, 50411 Tartu
  • Institute of Sport Sciences and Physiotherapy
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5360
    Faculty address: 
    Jakobi 5–205, 51005 Tartu
Faculty of Science and Technology
Faculty phone: 
+372 737 5820
Faculty address: 
Vanemuise 46–208, 51014 Tartu
  • Dean's Office
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5820
    Faculty address: 
    Vanemuise 46–208, 51003 Tartu
  • Institute of Computer Science
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5445
    Faculty address: 
    Narva mnt 18, 51009 Tartu
  • Estonian Marine Institute
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 671 8902
    Faculty address: 
    Mäealuse 14, 12618 Tallinn
  • Institute of Physics
    Faculty address: 
    W. Ostwaldi 1, 50411 Tartu
  • Institute of Chemistry
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5261
    Faculty address: 
    Ravila 14a, 50411 Tartu
  • Institute of Mathematics and Statistics
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5860
    Faculty address: 
    Narva mnt 18, 51009 Tartu
  • Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5027
    Faculty address: 
    Riia 23, 23b–134, 51010 Tartu
  • Tartu Observatory
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 4510
    Faculty address: 
    Observatooriumi 1, Tõravere, 61602 Tartumaa
  • Institute of Technology
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 4800
    Faculty address: 
    Nooruse 1, 50411 Tartu
  • Institute of Ecology and Earth Sciences
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5835
    Faculty address: 
    Vanemuise 46, 51003 Tartu
Institutions
  • Library
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5702
    Faculty address: 
    W. Struve 1, 50091 Tartu
  • Youth Academy
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5581
    Faculty address: 
    Uppsala 10, 51003 Tartu
  • Institute of Genomics
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 4000
    Faculty address: 
    Riia 23b, 51010 Tartu
  • Museum
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5674
    Faculty address: 
    Lossi 25, 51003 Tartu
  • University of Tartu Natural History Museum and Botanical Garden
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 6076
    Faculty address: 
    Vanemuise 46, 51003 Tartu
Support Units
  • Administrative Office
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5606
    Faculty address: 
    Ülikooli 18a, 51005 Tartu
  • Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 4809
    Faculty address: 
    Narva mnt 18, 51009, Tartu
  • University Office in Tallinn
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 6600
    Faculty address: 
    Teatri väljak 3, 10143 Tallinn
  • Estates Office
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5137
    Faculty address: 
    Ülikooli 18a, 51005 Tartu
  • Finance Office
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5125
    Faculty address: 
    Jakobi 4, 51005 Tartu
  • Grant Office
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 6215
    Faculty address: 
    Raekoja plats 9, 51004 Tartu
  • Information Technology Office
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 6000, IT-help: +372 737 5500
    Faculty address: 
    Ülikooli 18a, 51005 Tartu
  • Human Resources Office
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5145
    Faculty address: 
    Ülikooli 18, rooms 302 and 304, 50090 Tartu
  • Internal Audit Office
    Faculty address: 
    Ülikooli 18-244, 51005 Tartu
  • Marketing and Communication Office
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5687
    Faculty address: 
    Ülikooli 18, rooms 102, 104, 209, 210, 50090 Tartu
  • Office of Academic Affairs
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5620
    Faculty address: 
    Ülikooli 18, 50090 Tartu
  • Procurement Office
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    +372 737 6632
    Faculty address: 
    Ülikooli 18a, 51005 Tartu
  • Rector's Strategy Office
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    +372 737 5600
    Faculty address: 
    Ülikooli 18, 50090 Tartu
  • Student Council
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    Ülikooli 18b, 51005 Tartu
  • University of Tartu Press
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5945
    Faculty address: 
    W. Struve 1, 50091 Tartu
Other Units
  • University of Tartu Academic Sports Club
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5371
    Faculty address: 
    Ujula 4, 51008 Tartu
  • Tartu Student Village
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 740 9959
    Faculty address: 
    Narva mnt 25, 51013 Tartu
  • Tartu Students’ Club
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 730 2400
    Faculty address: 
    Kalevi 24, 51010 Tartu
  • Tartu University Hospital
    Faculty address: 
    L. Puusepa 1a, 50406 Tartu
  • University of Tartu Foundation
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5852
    Faculty address: 
    Ülikooli 18, 50090 Tartu
  • View all other units

Doctoral thesis: Overweight men are lowering birth rates

About 15% of couples in fertile age have experienced fertility problems. Men contribute to 50% of the cases when a couple cannot achieve the desired pregnancy. The proportion of overweight men has tripled in parallel with the increase in fertility problems worldwide. The doctoral thesis conducted at the University of Tartu Institute of Clinical Medicine confirmed that central obesity affects fertility parameters negatively. To alleviate their fertility problems, men should pay attention to their lifestyle.

According to Kristel Ehala-Aleksejev, a doctoral student at the UT Institute of Clinical Medicine and a physician at Tartu University Hospital Men’s Clinic, men's semen quality has dropped dramatically over the last century. “Possible reasons for the decline of fertility parameters can be the rapidly changed lifestyle, altered physical activity and eating habits along with other factors. A western lifestyle is conducive to weight gain, which is also a problem among Estonian men.”

She noted that there are studies associating obesity with reduced fertility, but there are other studies denying this. Conflicting results also characterise the relationship between central obesity-related metabolic syndrome and sperm quality. There is, however, an almost unanimous agreement that increased weight has a negative correlation with testosterone levels.

“At an andrology appointment, we often see links between weight and fertility. An important factor with men is the accumulation of fat in the waist region. However, central obesity is a great health risk. In addition, obesity as a change in the hormonal balance promotes the development of erection problems, which in turn reduces fertility,” said Ehala-Aleksejev.

Male fertility is mainly assessed based on semen analysis, but one of the easiest methods for determining fertility potential is the measurement of testicular volume.

In her doctoral thesis “The Associations Between Body Composition, Obesity and Obesity-Related Health and Lifestyle Conditions with Male Reproductive Function,” Aleksejev looked at provenly fertile men and the male partners of infertile couples. Comparing the groups showed that a significantly higher prevalence of adiposity and metabolic syndrome was found among the male partners of infertile couples. Central obesity was associated with a decline in fertility parameters in both groups. According to the doctoral student, the analysis importantly revealed that men with smaller testicles were more affected by an increase in body weight and central obesity.

Kristel Ehala-Aleksejev, who is also a nutritional therapist, confirmed that men could do a lot for their health. “They should try to keep physically active, move, and if possible, do sports. They should include more fruit and vegetables and whole-grain products in their diet. Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption are notable risk factors of infertility. However, mental health or ability to alleviate stress and finding time for themselves and their loved ones is no less important.”

Kristel Ehala-Aleksejev defended her doctoral thesis “The Associations Between Body Composition, Obesity and Obesity-Related Health and Lifestyle Conditions with Male Reproductive Function” on 12 June 2019.

Thesis supervisor is Margus Punab, associate professor of andrology at University of Tartu Institute of Clinical Medicine and head of Tartu University Hospital Men’s Clinic.

The translation of this article was funded by the European Regional Development Fund through Estonian Research Council.

More information:
Kristel Ehala-Aleksejev
Doctoral Student at UT Institute of Clinical Medicine, Doctor and Nutritional Therapist at Tartu University Hospital’s Men’s Clinic
kristel.ehala-aleksejev [ät] ut.ee
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