Unhealthy Lifestyle Choices May Have Little Effect on Sperm Count

By Amy Taylor on September 10, 2018

 Males who are having fertility issues are usually advised by their GPs to reduce alcohol consumption, avoid tobacco and recreational drug use, and maintain their weight. But according to a new research, these things have little to do with infertility, particularly when it comes to low sperm count.

A group of researchers from the University of Manchester and University of Sheffield looked on the most common lifestyle choices that a lot of men do to address fertility issues and whether they really do have an effect to it. The study involved 2,249 men diagnosed with fertility problems from 14 clinics across the UK. These men were asked about their lifestyle. The information gathered was then compared with the case of 939 men who had low sperm count and with a control group of 1, 310 who produced high numbers of sperm produced through ejaculation.

The researchers found that men who had lower sperm count were 2.5 times more likely to undergo testicular surgery. They were twice as likely to come from the black ethnicity, 1.3 times to engage in manual work, not had a previous conception, and not wear boxer shorts. For men who engage in manual work, they are usually exposed to chemicals which have been shown to affect their reproductive health.

But when checked whether they have used recreational drugs, gained weight, consumed alcohol, and smoked tobacco, the results were surprising. The scientists found no significant effect.

Their findings were published in the medical journal Human Reproduction.

In the study, the researchers assessed male fertility by determining the number of sperm cells that men ejaculated. This is because the sperm count generally determines how fertile men are likely to be, and is often used to determine what treatment is most suitable for them.

Although healthy lifestyle choices are important in many aspects of one’s health, some of them may have little impact on how many swimming sperms are there in a man’s ejaculation, as pointed out by Dr. Andrew Povey, one of the researchers from the University of Manchester’s School of Community Based Medicine. For instance, he showed that a significant proportion of men who had lower sperm count were the same whether they had been smoking more than 20 cigarettes a day. The same is true with alcohol consumption. The researchers found a very small connection between smoking and alcoholism which were long believed to disrupt fertility.

According to Dr Povey, their findings potentially overturn much of the current advice given to men on how they can improve their chances of fertility. In most cases, patients are asked to delay treatments until after they have made changes in their lifestyle. But because these lifestyle choices have very little effect, it is unlikely to improve their fertility rate, which according to the researchers, may be prejudicial for couples with little time left to lose.

Dr Allan Pacey, a senior professor in Andrology at the University of Sheffield explained that even though they failed to show the link between these common lifestyle factors and a male’s sperm count, it’s possible that they may have something to do with the shape and size of the sperm as well as the quality of the DNA found in each sperm head.

Despite these results, the researchers still encourage men to continue following the health advices from their GPs, but may need a more effective treatment.

Dr Allan Pacey said: "In spite of our results, it’s important that men continue to follow sensible health advice and watch their weight, stop smoking and drink alcohol within sensible limits. But there is no need for them to become monks just because they want to be a dad. Although if they are a fan of tight Y-fronts, then switching underpants to something a bit looser for a few months might be a good idea!"


Sources of this article:

Unhealthy lifestyles have little impact on sperm quality, University of Manchester

Modified and non-modifiable risk factors for poor semen quality: a case-referent study, by AC Povey et al, Human Reproduction

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