According to a 2012 statistical report by the World Health Organization (WHO), globally one in six adults is obese and nearly 2.8 million die every year due to obesity. This the reason obesity is one of the most rapidly increasing and most common public health concerns in the world. Yet is also one of the most neglected health issues.
In India, around 135 million individuals suffer from generalized obesity (GO, BMI≥25kg/m2) and around 153 million individuals suffer from abdominal obesity (AO, waist circumference ≥90 cm for men and ≥80cm for women).
Can obesity lead to sexual dysfunction?
The World Health Organization considers a person to be overweight if the body mass index (BMI) is greater than 25 kg/m2 and obese if the BMI is greater than 30 kg/m2. Obesity is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, psychological problems and obesity-related cancers.
As obesity affects a person both physically and mentally, these issues can, in turn, affect sexual well being. It can lead to difficulties with orgasm, decline in sexual frequency, lower sexual desire and lack of satisfaction in both men and women.
In men, problems such as low testosterone and impotence are also seen. Here we examine how and why obesity can lead to these issues.
Low testosterone levels
Obesity and testosterone have a two-way relationship. Obesity can lead to low testosterone and low levels of testosterone can increase your risk of obesity. Testosterone is a male reproductive hormone which plays a key role in spermatogenesis (production of sperm) and also triggers male sexual characteristics such as the development of genital organs.
Men with obesity have high BMI, central adiposity (fat around the abdomen) and metabolic syndrome. These conditions are associated with low serum testosterone and sex hormone–binding globulin (SHBG) levels. This can not only lead to hypogonadism (a condition that affects the functioning of the testes and the secretion of hormones) but also adversely affect the reproductive health and sexual function.
Obesity in men negatively impacts their reproductive life by altering the sperm quality, sperm count, sperm motility and sperm morphology. It also affects the physical and molecular structure of germ cells, which ultimately turn into mature sperms, in the testes (reproductive organ) thus impacting overall fertility in men.
Numerous research studies have proved the role of obesity in impotence. Obesity can lead to hormonal imbalance, endothelial dysfunction, insulin resistance, psychological factors and physical inactivity, which can lead to erectile dysfunction. This risk of erectile dysfunction increases with increasing BMI.
As obesity can lead to low sex drive, reduced sexual satisfaction, difficulty with sexual performance and avoidance of sexual encounters, all these factors can cause erectile dysfunction.
Being obese is a social stigma and discrimination due to the body weight can lead to psychological problems such as negative body image due to low self-esteem, lack of confidence, anxiety and depression. It can also increase the risk of mood disorders, eating problems and interpersonal communication problems, which directly or indirectly affect the quality of life. An obese person might think of himself as unattractive and undesirable in bed. This is why severely obese men who have a higher BMI tend to avoid sexual encounters.
Difficulty in sexual performance
The lack of sexual desire or low libido can lead to reduced frequency of sex, which in the long term can affect their sexual relationship.
Obesity also leads to an increased difficulty with sexual performance, which further can lower sexual satisfaction in men.
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