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Male fertility and obesity: are ghrelin, leptin and glucagon-like peptide-1 pharmacologically relevant?

[ Vol. 22 , Issue. 7 ]


Marco G. Alves, Tito T. Jesus, Mário Sousa, Erwin Goldberg, Branca M. Silva and Pedro F. Oliveira   Pages 783 - 791 ( 9 )


Obesity is rising to unprecedented numbers, affecting a growing number of children, adolescents and young adult men. These individuals face innumerous health problems, including subfertility or even infertility. Overweight and obese men present severe alterations in their body composition and hormonal profile, particularly in ghrelin, leptin and glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) levels. It is well known that male reproductive health is under the control of the individual’s nutritional status and also of a tight network of regulatory signals, particularly hormonal signaling. However, few studies have been focused on the effects of ghrelin, leptin and GLP-1 in male reproduction and how energy homeostasis and male reproductive function are linked. These hormones regulate body glucose homeostasis and several studies suggest that they can serve as targets for anti-obesity drugs. In recent years, our understanding of the mechanisms of action of these hormones has grown significantly. Curiously, their effect on male reproductive potential, that is highly dependent of the metabolic cooperation established between testicular cells, remains a matter of debate. Herein, we review general concepts of male fertility and obesity, with a special focus on the effects of ghrelin, leptin and GLP-1 on male reproductive health. We also discuss the possible pharmacological relevance of these hormones to counteract the fertility problems that overweight and obese men face.


Ghrelin, leptin, glucagon-like peptide-1, obesity, spermatogenesis, male fertility.


Health Sciences Research Centre, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Beira Interior, Av. Infante D. Henrique, 6201-506 Covilhã, Portugal

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