Moderate drinking could increase male fertility, according to a new study

Business Insider US
  • A new study suggests drinking in moderation could boost male fertility.
  • Men who drank four to seven units a week had higher sperm counts and semen volume.
  • But the study comes with limitations, such as people self reporting their drinking habits.
  • More research is needed to really know what the impact is.

There's no doubt that drinking too much alcohol is pretty bad for you, but it's hard to keep up with whether or not drinking in moderation can have positive benefits.

For example, past research has appeared to show how having a few drinks a week may improve heart health. But some studies have since been revised, due to poor methodology or the fact that they were funded by the alcohol industry.

Scientists are trying to clear up the confusion, and one study earlier this year did find people who drink in moderation could actually live longer than teetotalers. And according to a new study, published in the journal Andrology, men who drink around four to seven units of alcohol a week may be more fertile than those who drink less.

The researchers recruited 323 men, about 10% of whom were teetotal, 30% drank one to three units a week, 30% drank four to seven units a week, and the remaining 30% drank more than eight units a week.

According to the results, drinking four to seven units a week was linked to higher sperm count and semen volume. In other words, the men who drank moderately were likely to be more fertile.

The study adds to a convoluted body of research. For instance, one study from 2014 found that sperm concentration and total sperm count were negatively associated with alcohol intake. Another study from 2005 suggested semen volume and sperm concentration were lower in alcoholics compared with abstainers.

"However, in other studies alcohol did not seem to play any role," Elena Ricci et al wrote in the new paper. "The inconsistency between our findings and previous studies may be due to the different way of categorization of alcohol consumption and to the different drinking habits of the populations studied."

There's also the problem with self reporting, which can skew results. People tend to be dishonest — intentionally or not — when they talk about things like their sex lives, drugs, and alcohol consumption.

Ricci said in a statement that in Italy alcohol consumption is common, but usually limited to small quantities, and "since the dose makes the poison, they are counselled to limit but not avoid alcohol."

Drinking excessively is notoriously bad for health, and has been shown to lower testosterone and sperm levels. But when it comes to drinking in moderation, more research is needed to conclude what the real benefits and costs are.

In terms of fertility, recent research has shown how diet can have an impact. Earlier this year, a study found that eating two handfuls of nuts a day could improve men's sperm counts. Certain vitamins, such as zinc, have also been associated with women going into the menopause later.

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