Men, Listen Up: Drinking Damages Your Sperm

A recent study from Denmark found the fertility of otherwise healthy men was significantly reduced by alcohol use. The sperm concentration of men has decreased by nearly one-third between 1989 and 2005, according to researchers. Statistically speaking, the human race simply cannot afford losing any more sperm or human reproduction will be negatively affected.

A team of researchers tested the blood and semen samples from 1,221 Danish men who were military recruits between the ages of 18 and 28, for signs of fertility. As part of their assessment, the recruits were asked how much alcohol they drank in the week before their medical exam. This was referred to as recent drinking. They were also asked whether drinking was habitual and how often they binge drank, defined as more than five units in one sitting.

The effects of drinking were evident from 5+ units a week upwards, but most apparent among those who drank 25 or more units every week. In these individuals, total sperm counts were 33% lower, and the proportion of normal-looking sperm 51% lower, among those knocking back 40 units a week compared with those drinking 1-5.

Gary Cherr, a reproductive toxicologist at the University of California, Davis, told Discover Magazine:

“We’re producing pretty poor sperm compared with those of primates and other mammals. Even in the most fertile men, there are quality issues.”

This was the first study among healthy young men with detailed information on alcohol intake. However, according to scientists, many animal studies suggest that alcohol has an impact on sperm quality. Given the fact that young men in western cultures drink significant amounts of alcohol, this is a public health concern, and could be a contributing factor to the growing low sperm count reported among young men today.

This was an observational study, so no definitive conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect. Therefore, it remains to be seen whether semen quality is restored if alcohol intake is reduced. More research is needed, but young men should be advised that habitual alcohol intake and regular binge drinking might affect their reproductive health. Male fertility is a complicated subject, and the reasons why male fertility is decreasing are even more complicated.

Alcohol abuse is a serious health risk with lifetime complications. Talk to a health care professional about alcohol use and advice on consumption control for a healthier lifestyle choice.

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