Smoking marijuana may not affect men’s fertility

Feb 10, 2019, 01:29
Smoking marijuana may not affect men’s fertility

Men who had ever smoked marijuana had significantly higher sperm concentrations and sperm counts, as well as higher testosterone levels, compared to men who had never smoked weed.

The study, which was conducted by researchers at Harvard University, looked at 1,143 semen samples of 662 men who were registered at different fertility clinics between 2000 and 2017.

All of the men answered questions about their marijuana use, and about half also provided blood samples that were analyzed for reproductive hormone levels.

Fully, the majority of the men (55%) reported that they had smoked marijuana in their lives, with 11% saying that they now used it.

The men taking part in this study completed a self-administered questionnaire that asked them about whether they had ever smoked cannabis, if they now smoked it, the number of joints they smoked a week, whether they ever quit and for how many years, age of starting to smoke it, the last time they smoked cannabis and the total duration of cannabis smoking. Only five percent of cannabis users had sperm counts below 15 million/mL, the World Health Organization's (WHO) threshold for "normal" levels, compared with 12 percent of men who had never smoked cannabis.

Dr. Feiby Nassan, one of the authors of the study, said men with higher testosterone levels are more likely to engage in risky behavior, like drug use, which could be behind the study's finding of higher sperm counts.

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However, the associate professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard Chan School also warned that the results "need to be interpreted with caution".

Among men who had ever smoked marijuana, those who used it more often had higher testosterone levels than those who used it less often.

However, the authors also advised caution when interpreting the findings, saying that the study does have limitations including the possibility of participants underreporting marijuana use because of its illegality during much of the period, as well as highlighting that it's unclear how much the results would extend to the general male population.

The findings, published Wednesday in the journal Human Reproduction, fly in the face of previous studies that suggest smoking pot can adversely affect male fertility.

United States lead researcher Dr Jorge Chavarro said: "These unexpected findings highlight how little we know about the reproductive health effects of marijuana, and in fact of the health effects of marijuana in general". They found that those who had smoked pot have a higher sperm concentration per ejaculate than those who never had the substance at all.

However, the researchers say their results need to be treated cautiously as other factors may account for their findings.

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The endocannabinoid chemical messenger system in the brain, which is stimulated when cannabis is in the body, can play a role regulating fertility.

Lawmakers have become a lot more chill about marijuana recently. It may be that low or moderate levels of marijuana use have a beneficial effect on sperm production, but heavier use reverses this effect.

Among the participants, 365, or 55%, reported having smoked marijuana at some point.

The researchers noted that around half of the men enrolled in the study had previously tried or had now used cannabis. One 2014 study surveyed almost 2,000 British men and found that men under 30 with less than four per cent normal sperm were twice as likely to have used marijuana in the past three months.

'Moreover, nor does it give support to any apparent fertility benefits of smoking marijuana.

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