Wednesday, February 6, 2019

New Study Shows Men Who Smoke Marijuana Are Likely More Fertile Than Those Who Don't

A history of smoking cannabis even just once has unexpectedly been linked to greater fertility in men, even if they don't still use the drug.

The result came as a surprise to Harvard University scientists measuring the sperm counts of more than 600 men from couples attending a fertility clinic.

They expected cannabis to have a detrimental effect on sperm count and fertility. Instead, those participants who admitted ever taking the drug turned out to have higher sperm counts than non-users.

The finding does not necessarily mean that smoking cannabis increases the chances of fatherhood, the study authors and other experts were quick to point out.

They suggest that the association may not show any cause-and effect relationship, but rather reflect the influence of the male hormone, testosterone, on both sperm count and risk-taking behavior, such as smoking cannabis.

Dr Jorge Chavarro, from the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health in Boston, 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.

'Our results need to be interpreted with caution and they highlight the need to further study the health effects of marijuana use.'

Previous research involving animal experiments or men with histories of drug abuse has suggested that cannabis impairs male reproductive health.

For the new study, investigators collected 1,143 semen samples from 662 men between 2000 and 2017.

On average, the men were 36 years old, mostly white and college educated. All of them belonged to couples seeking help with conception from a fertility clinic. Participants were asked to fill in questionnaires detailing their history of cannabis use.

More than half (55 percent) of the men reported having smoked cannabis at some point.

Of those, 44 percent said they had taken the drug in the past, and 11 percent classified themselves as current users.

Analysis of the semen samples showed that men who had smoked marijuana had average sperm concentrations of 62.7 million sperm per milliliter (million/mL).

Those who had never smoked a joint had an average count of 45.4 million/mL. 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.