Joanne Gallacher
By Joanne Gallacher

What causes infertility in Men? Apparently not alcohol, tobacco or drugs

Male infertility no longer linked to drink or drugs

Researchers have conclusive evidence that it probably won't harm a man's chances of starting a family if he drinks, smokes or takes recreational drugs. However, it's been long thought that GPs are supposed to warn men diagnosed with infertility about the dangers of alcohol, tobacco and recreational drugs. what-causes-infertility-550×500.jpg

What they found, is that men with unhealthy lifestyles were just as likely to be fertile as those living more sensibly. To improve sperm quality, infertile men are also urged to avoid being overweight and not to wear tight underwear. Now, a new study suggests many factors that were thought to contribute to low sperm count are now flawed.

This will no doubt anger people seeking fertility procedures who are delayed or withheld from the procedure until they improve their lifestyles. The study was carried out by a team of scientists from Manchester and Sheffield universities. They recruited 2,249 men from 14 fertility clinics around the UK and asked them to fill out detailed lifestyle questionnaires.

Information from 939 of the men who produced low numbers of swimming sperm was then compared with information from 1,310 who produced higher numbers. The results, reported in the journal Human Reproduction, showed that men with poor quality sperm were 2.5 times more likely to have had testicular surgery, and twice as likely to be of black ethnicity.

They were also 1.3 times more likely to do manual work, not wear loose boxer shorts, or not to have had a child before. But men's use of tobacco, alcohol and recreational drugs made little difference at all. Even being overweight, as measured by body mass index, did not affect sperm quality. Study leader Dr Andrew Povey, of Manchester University, said: 'Our results suggest that many lifestyle choices probably have little influence on how many swimming sperm they have. For example, whether the man was a current smoker or not was of little importance. Similarly, there was little evidence of any risk associated with alcohol consumption. 'This potentially overturns much of the current advice given to men about how they might improve their fertility.'

Co-author Dr Allan Pacey, senior lecturer in andrology at Sheffield University, said men should still take care of themselves, without feeling the need to 'become monks'.

Subscribe to our parent news