Insulin is a hormone that aids in glucose uptake into tissues and is involved in glucose homeostasis. The function of this hormone sounds too different from being connected to reproductive health. However, reproduction and the baby’s birth and health are emotionally and sometimes physically demanding processes, and the relationship between reproductive success and energy balance is well-established. Energy gets primarily stored as fat and glycogen and, in conjunction with glucose, allows organisms to grow and reproduce. As a result, insulin and glucose levels are essential for reproduction. Hence insulin and glucose levels are crucial for reproduction.
This article will examine various aspects of insulin resistance and how it affects the reproduction process.
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Hyperglycemia and Male Reproductive Health
Hyperglycemia is the state of the body characterised by higher glucose levels than the ideal. It may be due to several causes like type 2 diabetes, polycystic ovarian syndrome, or obesity. According to research, hyperglycemia affects the process of spermatogenesis (formation of sperm). As a result, there is a marked reduction in semen volume, sperm count, and motility. Therefore, you must maintain optimal blood glucose levels to support reproductive health.
Research indicates that the problem does not just lie with the number of sperm but also with their quality. Diabetic men have damaged nuclear DNA and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). In addition, hyperglycemia causes an increase in oxidative stress. Because of high levels of fatty acids and the lack of antioxidant protection, sperm cells are particularly vulnerable to oxidative stress. Sperm cells also lack DNA repair mechanisms which further deteriorates this effect.
This DNA damage translates to mutations in the offspring, leading to an increased number of stillbirths and life-threatening cancers.
Insulin Resistance and Testosterone Levels
Insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome are closely related to testosterone levels. Therefore, there is a bidirectional relationship between testosterone levels and insulin resistance. To simplify, it means that insulin resistance decreases testosterone levels. A decrease in testosterone levels aggravates the ongoing process of insulin resistance.
A meta-analysis revealed that men suffering from metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance have low testosterone levels compared to their non-diabetic counterparts. Testosterone is a hormone that plays a vital role in all aspects of male sexual response. Consistently low levels of testosterone can cause hypogonadism.
Research shows signs of hypogonadism, including the absence or regression of secondary sex characteristics. It leads to muscle wasting, anaemia, reduced bone mass or bone mineral density, decreased sperm count, and abdominal adiposity. It also includes sexual dysfunction. They have erectile dysfunction, reduced libido, diminished penile sensation, difficulty attaining orgasm, and reduced ejaculation. Also, it reduces energy and stamina. It also affects emotional health. As a result, it leads to depression, mood swings, and increased irritability. Also, it can result in difficulty concentrating, changes in cholesterol levels and osteoporosis.
Ways to Boost Testosterone Levels
Cholesterol Rich Food
Diet plays a vital role in boosting testosterone levels. According to data, testosterone is mainly formed from cholesterol by Leydig cells. Therefore, consuming foods that boost cholesterol synthesis can help in increasing the levels of testosterone as well.
Cholesterol levels are high in red meat, egg yolk, avocadoes, chia seeds, flax, olive oil, etc.; fish oil and ghee are also excellent sources of cholesterol. However, diabetics must not consume red meat. Studies show that people who consume red meat are more likely to have type-2 diabetes than those who do not. Other good cholesterol sources include olive oil, flax and chia seeds, fish oil, etc.
Antioxidants are essential to combat oxidative stress. It gets produced due to hyperglycemia. Fruits and vegetables containing vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E are rich sources of antioxidants. Vitamin A is mainly found in carrots, squash, broccoli, sweet potatoes, tomato, kale, mangoes, oranges, wolfberries (goji), collards, cantaloupe, peaches, and apricots. Sweet potatoes, however, should be consumed with caution by people with diabetes. Sweet potatoes are high in carbohydrate content and may increase the glycemic response.
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is a water-soluble compound that fulfils several roles in living systems. Sources include citrus fruits, green peppers, leafy vegetables, black currants, strawberries, blueberries, seabuckthorn, raw cabbage, and tomatoes.
Vitamin E is fat-soluble and protects lipids. In addition, it has tocotrienol and tocopherol. Sources include wheat germ, nuts, seeds, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, kiwifruit, vegetable oil, and fish-liver oil.
According to research, proanthocyanidins (PACs), a type of antioxidant, are found in various plant foods, including grapes, cranberries, blueberries, and vegetables like okra.
Regular exercise that significantly reduces BMI induces an elevation in serum testosterone levels. It works by acting on the serum insulin level and oxidative stress. According to research, aromatase is an enzyme in adipose tissue. It converts testosterone into estradiol. The decrease in fatty tissues also decreases aromatase and ultimately helps maintain good testosterone levels. The muscular and plasma dihydrotestosterone concentrations are also directly increased.
Exercise can help increase testosterone levels. However, a debate arises on which type of exercise is the best. Previous studies indicated that strength training is the way to go. However, recent research shows that serum testosterone levels in patients with erectile dysfunction may increase by reducing fat percentage. In addition, it improves cardiorespiratory fitness via aerobic exercise.
Aerobic exercise includes a wide range of activities. Some of them include:
- Walking or Jogging
Invest Time for Yourself
According to research, increased stress levels can lead to a decrease in testosterone levels. However, you can avoid it by taking a little time out of your day to de-stress. There are a lot of ways to de-stress.
- Research has proven that meditation can help you de-stress and improve your psychological health.
- Yoga and tai chi are ancient modalities that can help you in de-stressing.
- Warm baths after a long day can help you relax and refocus while adjusting your priorities.
- Morning walks without electronics can help you understand what you need to do for the day, increasing your effectiveness and decreasing stress.
- Decreasing screen time and starting a hobby might improve your psychological health. For example, you can take up gardening, arts or learn a musical instrument.
- Dancing can help you de-stress.
The HealthifyMe Note
Alterations in insulin function can lead to abnormalities in the male reproductive system. Diabetes type 1 or type 2 can harm male fertility. Diet rich in good cholesterol and antioxidants works well for improving male reproductive health. Aerobic exercise is undoubtedly the best for increasing testosterone levels.
Hyperglycemia and Female Reproductive Health
There is an association between type 2 diabetes and fertility, alterations in the length of the menstrual cycle, and the age of onset of menopause. According to research, infertility risk factors related to insulin resistance include menstrual abnormalities, shortening of reproductive period (late menarche and premature menopause), and sexual dysfunction.
Insulin resistance affects reproductive health causing menstrual changes, fertility disorders, vaginal and urinary tract infections, urinary incontinence, depressive disorders, and sexual dysfunction.
Obesity is common in women with type 2 diabetes. Studies show that obese women seeking pregnancy take a longer time to conceive, unrelated to age. It may be due to alterations in ovaries in obese women.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and Insulin Resistance
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a pervasive disorder. It shows up in premenopausal women. These women usually have hyperandrogenism and chronic anovulation. Studies have shown that insulin resistance and polycystic ovarian syndrome are closely related. This disorder decreases the chances of conception and puts women at risk for gestational diabetes. However, you can avoid it by making some lifestyle modifications.
Alterations in your diet can help alleviate the effects of polycystic ovarian disease and improve your insulin sensitivity and lipid profiles.
Here are the foods that you should consume
- According to research, dietary fibre helps raise the amount of SHBG, which is sex hormone-binding globulin. An increase in SHBG helps prevent the overproduction of free hormones like testosterone. It will also aid in weight loss due to the increased satiety produced by delayed digestion.
- Research says a diet should contain fruits and vegetables low in glycemic index and usually non-starchy. Some examples include artichokes, asparagus, bean sprouts, brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, eggplant, mushrooms, onions, peppers, salad greens, spinach, tomato, turnips, zucchini, melons, berries like strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries, citrus fruits like oranges, tangerines, grapefruit and lemons, peaches, plums, apricots, cherries, and pears).
- Avoid highly processed foods like refined carbs as they increase insulin resistance and worsen the symptoms of PCOS.
Exercise is vital to improving the metabolic and reproductive health of individuals suffering from the polycystic ovarian disorder. According to data, guidelines for PCOS suggest at least 150 min of physical activity per week.
According to research, high-intensity interval training improves insulin resistance, without weight loss, in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. In addition, body composition improves significantly after both strength training and high-intensity interval training.
According to research, sleep disorders are common in women suffering from PCOS. Insufficient sleep leads to an aggravation of PCOS. Hence, it is essential to get enough sleep. If you have trouble sleeping, try these tips.
- Avoid caffeine at night, as it may prevent you from sleeping and can raise cortisol levels. Try to limit your daily coffee to one cup.
- Reduce screen time before sleep. The blue wavelength light emitted from electronic devices suppresses melatonin and causes neurological arousal. Therefore decreasing the bedtime usage of electronic devices is recommended to sleep better. If that is not possible, use blue light filters on your phones and computers to block the blue light. You can also use blue-light-blocking glasses for similar effects.
- Practice light stretching, breathing, yoga, or tai chi to sleep better.
The HealthifyMe Note
Insulin resistance gets closely linked to female reproductive health. Diet should primarily consist of fibre, which aids in fertility issues, and foods with a low glycemic index. Exercise, sleep, and mental health are essential factors in women’s reproductive health.
Reducing weight is necessary for improving reproductive health; here are a few tips you can follow.
- Practice mindful eating. It is done by eating slowly and concentrating on what you are eating. Avoid using electronics while eating. It enables you to be more mindful of what you consume.
- Consume five smaller meals rather than three large meals, which helps you keep your sugar levels in control.
- It is a well-established fact in research that smoking increases your chance of being obese. Hence, it is advisable to avoid smoking.
- Avoid undereating or over-exercising. In addition, pregnancy, parturition, and lactation are energetically demanding. Therefore, it affects maternal behaviour too.
- Negative energy balance due to hypophagia, or excessive energy expenditure, gets linked to a suppression of reproductive function. It also affects ovarian cyclicity.
- Get enough sleep.
- Manage stress.
The primary role of insulin is to maintain peripheral glucose homeostasis via stimulation of glucose uptake, oxidation, and storage. There is also strong evidence that insulin plays a role in regulating reproduction and may be a significant signal linking metabolism and reproductive status. Insulin resistance and hyperglycemia lead to the decreased count of sperm cells and also causes an increase in DNA damage. In addition, it may lead to mutations in the offspring.
Insulin resistance also affects testosterone levels and leads to hypogonadism, which may correlate to decreased libido and stamina. It, however, can be modified by changes in lifestyle. For example, a diet rich in good cholesterol and antioxidants works well for improving male reproductive health. Furthermore, exercise boosts testosterone levels; aerobic exercise is considered the best for doing the same.
Female reproductive health is closely correlated with insulin resistance. PCOS gets very closely connected to insulin levels. It leads to an increase in the androgen levels in females leading to infertility. One can manage PCOS by lifestyle modifications, including diet and exercise. Diet should mainly contain fibre as it increases the levels of SHBG, which helps in dealing with fertility issues, and foods low in glycemic index. Exercise and sleep are also essential contributors to the reproductive health of women.