Published: Sun, February 10, 2019
Medicine | By Daryl Nelson

Smoking up may be good for fertility

Smoking up may be good for fertility

They found that the men in the study who used marijuana at some point in their lives had higher sperm counts and sperm concentrations than those who never used marijuana.

Overall, the sperm of past and current marijuana users seemed to be of superior quality.

"Our findings were contrary to what we initially hypothesized".

In the latest study, published Tuesday in Human Reproduction, researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and elsewhere looked at a specific group of men: fertility clinic patients. The men in the study reported smoking an average of two joints per week. Among men who had ever smoked cannabis, those who smoked it more often had testosterone levels an average of eight nanograms per decilitre (ng/dL) higher than those who used it less often.

And rightfully so. In 2015, a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology examined 1,215 healthy young men and found that those who used recreational marijuana a couple of times per week had lower sperm counts than those who used the substance less often or not at all. Allan Pacey, professor of andrology at the University of Sheffield, U.K., authored a 2014 study suggesting that using cannabis can impact the size and shape of sperm, and in turn male fertility. They also asked the men about past and present marijuana use, though they did not ask about specific dosages or frequency. "An equally plausible interpretation is that our findings could reflect the fact that men with higher testosterone levels are more likely to engage in risk-seeking behaviours - including drug use - and that the relations we see between cannabis smoking, sperm counts and testosterone levels are because men with higher testosterone, within normal levels, have higher sperm counts and are more likely to smoke cannabis".

Sperm with morphology issues tend to be poor swimmers, crawling or colliding head-on into the walls of the female reproductive tract in their frantic swim to fertilize an egg.

In the new study, the researchers analyzed details from 662 men who were evaluated for infertility from Ys 2000 to 2017 at the Massachusetts General Hospital Fertility Center. On average, the men were 36 years old, and most were white and college educated. For men who smoke marijuana and are planning on having children, the advice keeps getting more confusing.

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Of those, 44 percent said they had taken the drug in the past, and 11 percent classified themselves as current users. "For example, the observation that men in this study who had ever (but not currently) smoked marijuana had a higher sperm concentration compared to those who had never done so is intriguing". Sperm motility decreased, acrosome reactions failed to occur and worst of all, sperm counts dropped" and the function of the Sertoli or "support' cells that create key proteins to sperm production declinees, she explained.

The marijuana smokers also had lower concentrations of follicle-stimulating hormone, or FSH, a hormone produced by the pituitary gland. Many people assume this means the drug is totally safe to use, but scientists are still working out exactly what it does to our bodies.

Previous studies, however, have found that marijuana use can lead to lower sperm counts and sperm concentrations.

This was an observational study, and it's entirely possible that the link between pot and male fertility might run in the opposite direction, Chavarro said.

In a surprise find, researchers discover smoking pot may not hinder sperm counts. Since marijuana was still illegal in MA at that time, it's possible that many test subjects under-reported or even lied about their cannabis consumption during the trial.

The paper may be an outlier. "We know a lot less than we think we know". However, they are consistent with two different interpretations.

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