Diet during early life defines testicular lipid content and sperm quality in adulthood

Luis Crisóstomo, Romeu A Videira, Ivana Jarak, Kristina Starčević, Tomislav Mašek, Luis P Rato, Joao F Raposo, Rachel L Batterham, Pedro F Oliveira, Marco G Alves

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Childhood obesity is a serious concern associated with ill health later in life. Emerging data suggest that obesity has long-term adverse effects upon male sexual and reproductive health but few studies addressed this issue. We hypothesized that exposure to high-fat diet during early life alters testicular lipid content and metabolism leading to permanent damage to sperm parameters. After weaning (day 21 after birth), 36 male mice were randomly divided into 3 groups and fed with different diet regimen for 200 days: CTRL-standard chow; HFD-high-fat diet (Carbohydrate: 35.7%, Protein: 20.5%, Fat: 36.0%); HFDt-high-fat diet for 60 days then replaced by standard chow. Biometric and metabolic data were monitored. Animals were then sacrificed, and tissues collected. Epididymal sperm parameters and endocrine parameters were evaluated. Testicular metabolites were extracted and characterized by 1H-NMR and GC-MS. Testicular mitochondrial and antioxidant activity were evaluated. Our results show that mice fed with high-fat diet, even if only until early adulthood, had lower sperm viability and motility, and higher incidence of head and tail defects. Although diet reversion with weight loss during adulthood prevents the progression of metabolic syndrome, testicular content in fatty acids is irreversibly affected. Excessive fat intake promoted an over-accumulation of pro-inflammatory n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids in testis, which are strongly correlated with negative effects upon sperm quality. Therefore, the adoption of high-fat diets during early life correlates to irreversible changes in testicular lipid content and metabolism, which are related to permanent damage to sperm quality later in life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E1061-E1073
JournalAmerican journal of physiology. Endocrinology and metabolism
Issue number6
Early online date12 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020


  • diet intervention
  • early-life obesity
  • high-fat diet
  • lipidomics
  • male fertility


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