Yet another downside to diabetes

Over the years, I've written tons of articles about the diabetes epidemic, and often it's to bring you some good news about victories in this war, or about certain vitamins (ginseng, for example) that can keep this awful disease at bay. Unfortunately, this is not one of those articles. I'm here to tell you about a new study that's found yet another downside to obesity and diabetes: infertility.

A new report recently presented at the conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology has concluded that the semen from diabetics actually contains damaged DNA. What's more, it appears that this damage is irreparable.

According to one of the study's authors, Dr. Con Mallidis of Queens University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, "Diabetics have a significant decrease in their ability to repair sperm DNA, and once this is damaged it cannot be restored."

Tack this on to the long list of dangers and complications of diabetes, a disease that's blossomed into a full-blown American epidemic in recent years. But the study also found that obesity (which is, of course, closely linked to diabetes) and being underweight also cause problems with sperm. A separate study discovered that males with a high body mass index produce less seminal fluid, and more abnormal sperm.

"This is not simply a coincidence," Mallidis said. "We have shown for the first time that diabetes directly affects male fertility on a molecular level."

This damaged DNA can result in some devastating and tragic reproductive consequences, including higher miscarriage rates and debilitating childhood diseases - including some pediatric cancers.

The cause of all these nightmares? Sugar, of course.

During the study, Mallidis said the researchers "found a class of compounds known as advanced glycation end products (AGEs) in the male reproductive tract" which are formed as the result of the addition of sugar, a process called glycation. Mallidis said that AGEs are dependent on lifestyle choices like diet, and play a role in the male reproductive system."

We still don't know how AGEs cause and contribute to DNA damage, but I'm willing to bet that the impact of AGEs on health may be a lot more far-reaching than just diabetes and its various complications.

For years I've told you how sugar and diabetes are joined at the hip. It's easy enough to avoid diabetes just by avoiding those sweet-tasting pitfalls. But easy or not, the epidemic keeps ballooning. And that means various complications from diabetes keep on growing too. Diabetes is associated with nerve damage, eye problems, and kidney damage - and now, apparently, irreparably mutated sperm. If that's not enough to get you to swear off Twinkies, I don't know what will.

"We must now try to develop strategies to protect sperm, and to diminish the accumulation of AGEs," said Dr. Mallidis. Such strategies could involve changes in diet, disrupting a step in the formation of AGEs, or increasing the body's protection against AGEs, possibly through the use of dietary supplements.

The problem is, things aren't getting better on the obesity front: the World Health Organization claims that the number of obese people will increase by a staggering 75 percent worldwide by 2015 - an estimated 700 million wide bodies. If Mallidis's study is correct, imagine the global health implications - not just of the increased number of diabetics, but of the exponentially higher number of children born with severe health issues (or not born at all) as a result of a global decline in the amount of viable sperm. It's a frightening thought.