Diabetes And Sperm DNA Damage

Diabetes is on the rise, increasing at a rate of three percent per year. More and more people are affected with type 2 diabetes, which normally starts in adulthood. It is apparent that both lifestyle and genetics play a part in who gets the disease, and it also seems that it sometimes ‘runs' in families. Poor diet, lack of exercise and obesity are precursors for type 2 diabetes in men.

Diabetes 101

Diabetes affects the way the body uses food for energy. Normally, food is broken down in the body and the sugar, converted to glucose, is used as fuel. Insulin, the hormone that is responsible for moving the glucose to fuel the cells, is produced in the pancreas. In a healthy person, the pancreas regulates the amount of insulin released according to glucose levels in the blood. Diabetes causes this system to break down and sugar levels are affected by the failure of the pancreas to produce glucose adequately.

If the man has type 1 diabetes, he must rely on insulin injections to provide the necessary hormones to govern and balance glucose levels. Type 2 diabetes can often be handled with diet, exercise, and sometimes insulin shots. There are a number of repercussions for men with diabetes. Health issues resulting from the condition include blindness, kidney failure and nerve damage. One of the effects of this condition upon men is damaged sperm DNA. Defective sperm DNA is a cause of male infertility, pregnancy failure, and miscarriage. However, the implications for sperm affected by diabetes are not known.

Study Shows Diabetes Affects Sperm DNA

Dr. Ishola Agbaje, a research fellow in the Reproductive Medicine Research Group at Queen's University, Belfast, Ireland and Professor Sheena Lewis have co-authored a study which reveals that DNA in sperm from diabetic men showed more signs of damage than that of men without the condition. The men in the original study were classified type 1 diabetes, but researchers found the same DNA damage in men with type 2 diabetes.

Dr. Agbaje said, "Diabetes will affect many more men prior to and during their reproductive years." He estimates that one in six couples will require assistance from a reproduction specialist in order to conceive. Professor Lewis indicated that at this point it is not possible to say definitively that DNA damage resulting from diabetes would affect fertility in the same way as DNA damage from other factors might.

How Does Damaged Sperm DNA Impact Health?

Dr. Lewis continues, "There are many things we need to look at-the number of men with diabetes and fertility problems, we need to look at children of diabetic fathers to see if there is an impact on their health and we need to find the exact nature of the DNA damage." It appears that the high levels of glucose present in diabetic men may be a cause.

Although the study was not large, the findings have created some alarm among reproduction specialists. In order to determine how to avoid damage to sperm DNA, it is important to understand how it happens in the first place. This will be the catalyst for more research into sperm DNA damage caused by diabetes.