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Old 06-16-2008, 08:41 AM   #1
Greg Davis
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Default Paleo-fertility Question I Haven't Been Able To Answer

Here's a fertility question I've had posed to me that I'm a bit stuck on:

something along lines of:
"As our fertility mechanisms must be based around being more fertile when more resources are available, it must be that as insulin sensitivity increases, one becomes less fertile. For a female this would mean less likely to get pregnant if insulin sensitivity is high. For a male, does this mean testosterone goes lower?"

Wouldn't relatively higher insulin resistance in the fall raise testosterone in males as a signal to "get it on" and have spring babies? A bit inspired by stuff in Lights Out here..

What I'm getting at here is I'm not sure how to logically defend having high insulin sensitivity year-round when thinking about hormones and our evolutionary past.
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Old 06-16-2008, 05:19 PM   #2
Garrett Smith
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The metabolic syndrome and male infertility.

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This review article evaluates the literature regarding metabolic syndrome and male reproductive health. Links between obesity, dyslipidemia, hypertension, and insulin resistance are each examined with regard to their associated detrimental effects on male fertility.
Obesity and infertility.

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Fertility can be negatively affected by obesity. In women, early onset of obesity favours the development of menses irregularities, chronic oligo-anovulation and infertility in the adult age. Obesity in women can also increase risk of miscarriages and impair the outcomes of assisted reproductive technologies and pregnancy, when the body mass index exceeds 30 kg/m. The main factors implicated in the association may be insulin excess and insulin resistance. These adverse effects of obesity are specifically evident in polycystic ovary syndrome. In men, obesity is associated with low testosterone levels. In massively obese individuals, reduced spermatogenesis associated with severe hypotestosteronemia may favour infertility. Moreover, the frequency of erectile dysfunction increases with increasing body mass index.
Higher insulin sensitivity = better fertility = lower carb intake.

High carb intake = insulin resistance = less fertility = less testosterone.

Increased available resources (foodstuff, particulary Paleo sources without excessive modern fruit) doesn't necessarily imply lowered insulin sensitivity.

The current Black Box data (ie. see American infertility rates along with obesity rates) regarding insulin and fertility would seem to be pretty straightforward.

What exactly do you need to justify again based on this info? :-)
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Last edited by Garrett Smith; 06-16-2008 at 05:50 PM. Reason: added another reference
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Old 06-17-2008, 06:04 AM   #3
Greg Davis
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Hmm there is clearly studies to show obesity and insulin resistance inhibit fertility but that doesn't necessarily mean the opposite does not. (modern obesity is so ridiculously outside our historical norm it doesn't have much relevance). I'm not saying high insulin sensitivity has any negative effect, just trying to be able to think it through logically.

Cuz due to the seasonal origins of our hormone development, it just seems logical that insulin sensitivity would be lowest in the fall and that would be tied in somehow to signal reproduction in both genders.

another example-> imagine a tribe runs in to famine conditions (low food availability, high energy expenditure) -> insulin sensitivity would go very high -> somehow this has to down-regulate sex hormones

My girlfriend has "gone paleo" for the last few months and she's seeing some disruptions to the regularity of her cycle (ie. 2 out of 3 months its been delayed) and its been a bit of a thought exercise in this respect.

One thought, relevant to the above example, is that your body might gauge relative changes in insulin sensitivity, as opposed to absolute levels. So an initial dietary change, might say to the body "ok insulin sensitivity is higher than average for last few years, down-regulate sex hormones".. and then reset to a higher norm if consistent with the diet.

I'd like to find a good accessible book that covers hormones from an evolutionary perspective. Lights Out is great but it just wets my appetite..!
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Old 06-17-2008, 06:24 AM   #4
Darryl Shaw
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Greg, I think you're overlooking the obvious on this fertility question - menstruation stops if food is so scarce that a womans body fat drops below ~15%. No food = no babies.

Last edited by Darryl Shaw; 06-17-2008 at 06:37 AM. Reason: typo
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Old 06-17-2008, 06:54 AM   #5
Greg Davis
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Hmm I dunno.. she seems to me to have a healthy bf %. But she has lost a bit of weight, or at least she says her pants fit looser..

I know < ~15% bf is a rule of thumb but it must be driven hormonally.. and there should be a parallel mechanism in males I would think.
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Old 06-17-2008, 08:47 AM   #6
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Female cycles will definitely "adjust" once the diet is cleaned up. That is normal. If it keeps happening after six months, then I would look deeper.
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Old 06-17-2008, 08:52 AM   #7
Mark Gebhard
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But for males, there'd be no evolutionary advantage to slowing down reproduction during tougher times. They'd just want to reproduce as often as possible since it costs them so little.
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Old 06-17-2008, 09:15 AM   #8
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Mark: that was my initial thought too; but I'm not so sure about that. The counterargument would be that, given pretty small tribal sizes, it would still be male's interests not to have female's pregnant at inopportune times. Males still have a stake in their offspring's success and in the group's efficient use of resources. But maybe the onus is completely on the females to regulate it. Dunno.

Basically I was wondering if there is a correlation between,
insulin sensitivity -> testosterone -> male sex drive
You'd think there would be.

Of course it could probably be shown in individuals with metabolic syndrome, but they are seriously messed hormonally, so its not going to tell us much.

Keeping insulin down is most likely just good all around.. but its just a bit of a thought exercise.
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Old 06-18-2008, 07:26 AM   #9
Darryl Shaw
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According to S. Boyd Eaton the sex drive of male hunter-gatherers takes a nose dive when body fat drops below ~5%. I presume it's due to reduced levels of testosterone but it makes sense not to waste energy reproducing if food supplies are so scarce any offspring would have little chance of survival. It could also be that reduced male fertility when food is scarce is a mechanism for ensuring their survival as lactating mothers and children would compete for resources.
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Old 06-19-2008, 07:29 PM   #10
Steve Liberati
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For what its worth. Kinda of embarrassing to write this post, but figured it could save a few unfortunate souls out there.

For the last 12 months my wife and I have been trying to concieve. My wife who is a teacher and extremely organized, had everything completed layed out and made sure we never skipped sex on the few days around ovaulation when it was possible to impregnant her. After 12 months of trying (and boy did we!), my wife and I decided to talk to our doctor and seek guidance. He referred us to a reproductive specialist. To make a long story short, and after a series of tests it was established that my sperm count was very low below normal levels. It was below 10 million which was very poor. Normal average sperm count is 40 million and anything below is 20 mil is low. This was in February.

So I took the Doc's advice and followed a few of his suggestions. Here's what he told me:
1). Take a high potentcy amino acid and antioxidant formula (the lady at the office tried to sell me Solgar for double the price and say it was their own brand! lol...I told her I would buy my own but thanks for the offer).
2.) Boxers, instead of briefs.
3.) No hot tubs EVER, which I don't take do anyway.

So this morning I went back for another follow-up semen anaylsis and just found out a few hours ago that my sperm count has went up significantly and above 40 million (from below 10 million 6 months ago!). I didn't believe it at first until another technician got on the phone to confirm the numbers.

Other than the multi and switching to boxers the only other thing I have changed in this time is my training regimen. Up until that point I was doing 3 days on and 1 day off. Changed it to 2 on/1 off. And also over the last 6 weeks have been doing a lot of strength training (Texas Method) on 1 of the 2 days with a focus on squats, deads, presses, cleans and snatches.

I still can't believe that my numbers went up that much over that short period of a time. Maybe there is something else going on here that I am failing to take into consideration, but if I had to say I really think the factors above played a huge part.

If I recall correctly, paleo man did run around and exercise without tight fitting underwear on, did he not?

So what is it for you: boxers or briefs?
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