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You booze, you lose (semen quality, that is)

6 October 2014
Appeared in BioNews 774

Drinking more than two pints a week could have negative effects on men's semen quality, a study has found.

The higher the alcohol consumption that was reported by young Danish men, the lower the quality of their semen, reported the study authors, who recommend that young men avoid habitual drinking.

'This is, to our knowledge, the first study among healthy young men with detailed information on alcohol intake, and given the fact that young men in the western world drink a lot, this is of public health concern, and could be a contributing factor to the low sperm count reported among them', the study authors said.

The study looked at 1,221 men aged 18 to 28 years who underwent a medical examination to assess their fitness for military service, which is compulsory for men in Denmark. The research team also invited the men to provide a semen sample to check their sperm quality, as well as a blood sample to check reproductive hormones. Around 30 percent of men who were invited participated in the study.

Compared to men who reported drinking one to five units of alcohol a week, men who reported drinking more than 40 units of alcohol in a typical week (13 to 20 pints of beer) had a 33 percent reduction in sperm concentration.

However, the team also found negative effects on semen quality in men drinking more than five units a week, with less sperm being produced, and more sperm of abnormal size and shape. 'The effect was there, albeit smaller, with just five units a week, so it's troubling', Professor Tina Kold Jensen, lead author of the study, told the Washington Post.

The team cannot rule out that the associations they found in this cross-sectional study are in fact due to other lifestyle factors, such as poor diet or smoking, that might accompany alcohol consumption.

Professor Jensen is not sure whether the presumed effect of alcohol on sperm quality is permanent. 'Hopefully it would reverse within three months, because that's how long it takes new sperm to mature', she said. 'But having said that, it's easy to recommend that young men drink less. We know it's healthier for your liver, and most other things'.

23 July 2018 - by Martha Henriques 
Drinking a moderate amount of alcohol, equivalent to two pints a week, has been linked to higher sperm quality than low alcohol consumption...
31 July 2017 - by Dr Katie Howe 
Sperm counts of men in developed nations have fallen by 52 percent in the last 40 years...
5 September 2016 - by Annabel Slater 
Drinking fewer than 14 servings of alcohol per week does not affect female fertility, according to a new study...
29 February 2016 - by Dr Rosie Morley 
Certain aspects of mobile phone usage may be linked to abnormal sperm concentration, according to research...
19 October 2015 - by Lone Hørlyck 
Prenatal exposure to chemicals used in fracking for oil or natural-gas operations may affect sperm count later in life, a new study performed on mice suggests...
9 June 2014 - by Dr Barbara Kramarz 
Cannabis use affects thesize and shape of sperm, according to a large study on lifestyle choices, environmental factors and semen quality...
20 May 2013 - by Ruth Retassie 
The Scottish government has approved criteria which include new restrictions on access to state-funded IVF but which also aim to end the 'postcode lottery' faced by many couples with fertility problems...
17 December 2012 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
The fourth session the Progress Educational Trust's annual conference 2012 'Fertility Treatment: A Life-Changing Event?' continued the day's critical perspective looking at the evidential basis for the impact of lifestyle factors on the outcome of fertility treatment and resulting children. This time it was the impact of alcohol and smoking that came under scrutiny...
18 June 2012 - by Helen Brooks 
An unhealthy lifestyle may not affect sperm quality as much as previously thought. A study in the journal Human Reproduction indicates that smoking, high alcohol consumption and being overweight all have little effect on semen quality...
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