High blood cholesterol level may diminish ability to conceive

For the first time in humans, researchers have found a link between high cholesterol levels and diminished capacity for couples to conceive, according to a study published online May 20 in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

The cohort study, "Lipid Concentrations and Couple Fecundity: The LIFE Study," comprises 501 couples, 18 to 40 years old, from 16 counties across Michigan and Texas recruited prior to conception in 2005-2009. These couples were part of the Longitudinal Investigation of Fertility and the Environment (LIFE) study, which aimed to ascertain whether ever-present environmental chemicals in the context of lifestyle affect male and female fertility. The investigators examined blood samples for total serum free cholesterol levels, without distinguishing between subtypes. After adjusting for age, BMI, race and education in relationship to female, male and joint couple lipid concentrations, the couples’ fecundability ORs and CIs were determined.

The researchers conclude that "serum lipids may be associated with diminished couple fecundity and a longer" time to pregnancy. Although the mechanism is unclear, "both male and female lipid concentrations were shown to be independent predictors of couple fecundity, after accounting for the role of body adiposity. These findings are of particular relevance, given the increased prevalence of obesity and dyslipidemia worldwide, coupled with evolving data suggesting temporal declines in human fecundity."

“We’ve long known that high cholesterol levels increase the risk for heart disease,” Enrique F. Schisterman, MS, PhD, of the NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Bethesda, Md., said in a press release. “In addition to safeguarding their health, our results suggest that couples wishing to achieve pregnancy could improve their chances by first ensuring that their cholesterol levels are in an acceptable range.”


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