A new study, soon to be published in The Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM), has demonstrated a clear association between obesity and detrimental changes in the ovaries. This may be one reason why obese women find it harder to conceive, as the changes in the ovary may make it difficult or even impossible for the egg to form into a viable embryo.
Obese women find it more difficult to conceive than women of a healthy weight, even when they are young and have a regular menstrual cycle. The aim of this study was to discover if there were any differences in the environment of the egg in obese women when compared to leaner women, which could explain why obese women have poorer reproductive outcomes.
Fats In The Ovaries Of Obese Women Can Harm The Embryo
Dr. Rebecca Robker from Adelaide University in Australia was the lead author of the study. She explained that characteristics of eggs are influenced by the environment in which they develop within the ovary. Obese women have high levels of fats, as well as inflammation in the fluid surrounding their eggs, which then may impact the developmental potential of the egg.
Dr. Robker believes that these fats may actually alter the egg’s metabolism, something which is known to be harmful in the formation of an embryo. It’s also known that inflammation may damage cells; therefore, if there is damage to the egg it could affect the survival of the embryo.
Obesity Increases Inflammation In The Ovary
The researchers followed 96 women, all of who were seeking reproductive assistance at a private clinic in South Australia, between February 2006 and April 2007. The hormone and metabolite levels were measured in follicular fluid, which was obtained from the ovaries of the subjects during the egg collection procedure. These tests demonstrated that there was a difference in the ovarian follicular environment of obese women. The follicular fluid showed increased activity of metabolites and androgens, both of which may be linked to poorer reproductive outcomes.
Dr. Robker explained that obesity is known to affect blood lipids and also increase inflammation in the body, which is generally deleterious to health. She believes that this new study demonstrates how obesity may have similar affects on the environment in the ovary where eggs develop. If this is the case, it makes a very clear link between obesity and reproductive challenges.
The results of this study provide an excellent reason for obese women to get their weight under control prior to attempting to conceive. Not only will their eggs be healthier, but they’ll be more likely to conceive, and experience a healthy pregnancy with fewer complications.