Smoking, Drinking Have Little Effect On Sperm Count

By Amir Khan on June 13, 2012 11:23 AM EDT

Alcohol
Bad lifestyle habits won't harm a man's chance of having kids, according to a new study (Photo: Reuters)

Bad lifestyle habits won't harm a man's chance of having kids, according to a new study, published Tuesday in the journal Human Reproduction. Smoking, drinking and being overweight may not be great for your health, but it won't harm your sperm count, researchers said.

"This potentially overturns much of the current advice given to men about how they might improve their fertility and suggests that many common lifestyle risks may not be as important as we previously thought," Dr. Andrew Povey, study author and researcher with the University of Manchester's School of Community Based Medicine, told MSNBC.

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The researchers asked almost 2,500 men from 14 fertility clinics in the U.K. to fill out questionnaires about their lifestyle habits. The researchers then compared this information to 939 men with low sperm counts and a control group of 1,300 men who had normal to above-average sperm counts.

Men with low sperm counts were more than twice as likely to have had testicular surgery, twice as likely to be black and 1.3 times as likely to not wear boxer shorts or do manual labor. Recreational drug and alcohol use and BMI were not associated with an increased risk of having a low sperm count.

"Whether the man was a current smoker or not was of little importance," the study authors wrote. "The proportion of men who had low numbers of swimming sperm was similar whether they had never been a smoker or a smoker who was currently smoking more than 20 cigarettes a day. Similarly, there was little evidence of any risk associated with alcohol consumption."

But some experts disagree with the findings.

"A single study that is counter to prior literature and common sense needs to be put into proper perspective," Dr. Natan Bar-Chama, director of the Center of Male Reproductive Health at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City, told HealthDay. "I am concerned that this limited and isolated study will convey the wrong message to couples desiring to become parents."

Researchers, however, stick by their findings, but said the study does not give men carte blanche to do as they please.

"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," Dr. Allan Pacey. study author and researcher at the University of Sheffield, told MSNBC.

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