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Pour One Out for the Babies: Moderate Alcohol Consumption in Men Linked to Better Semen Quality

October 18, 2018
Katie Visco

The American Society of Andrology published a study claiming that men who consume moderate amounts of alcohol have increased fertility compared to those who drink heavily or do not drink at all. The results were surprising to those who believed all alcohol consumption could negatively affect fertility. Generally, men are encouraged to adopt healthy lifestyles when they are trying to conceive, which often includes limiting alcohol usage. Read on to see what this means for men, especially those concerned about their fertility.

  • Quantity affects quality
  • Alcohol and women’s fertility
  • Other fertility factors

Quantity Affects Quality

In the study, participants were asked to report their consumption habits. Of the 323 participants, 9.6 percent abstained from alcohol and 30 percent drank less than 1-3 drinks, 30.3 percent drink 4-7 drinks, and 30 percent drinks more than eight drinks per week.

The study explored other variables such as caffeine intake, physical activity, and smoking habits. Despite these other factors, men who consumed 4-7 drinks per week had a higher semen volume, count, and concentration.

Men who drank more than 8 drinks a week also had a higher semen concentration, but volume was not affected.

There was no apparent effect on sperm motility, although some other studies have observed the effect of daily alcohol consumption on sperm morphology.

In terms of this study, men who drank 4-7 drinks a week had an overall increase in sperm quality in comparison to those who drank less or not at all. This proves that controlling alcohol consumption can be more beneficial than simply cutting it out.

What About Women?

The publication of this study has put a lot of emphasis on how attitudes about alcohol consumption are changing, especially in terms of male fertility. Women trying to conceive have always been advised to completely abstain from alcohol.

Fetal alcohol syndrome is when alcohol consumption during pregnancy affects a child’s health and development. Since the effects of alcohol on a fetus were discovered, the CDC dedicated many campaigns to advising women to completely abstain from alcohol use if they are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant.

Newer studies show that 55 percent of women report drinking alcohol during their first trimester, usually because they are unaware of their pregnancies. Many cease consumption once they find out about their pregnancies, but pregnancy intention and subsequent awareness affect a woman’s alcohol habits.

While most conversations about pregnancy and alcohol focus on the effect on fetuses, the link between alcohol and women’s fertility, in general, is not as advertised. A Danish study explored women’s fertility and alcohol due to the lack of knowledge around it.

The study concluded that women who drank fewer than 14 servings of alcohol per week had no significant changes in fertility. Although there was not a certain amount of alcohol that increased fertility (like in men), their fertility was not negatively influenced, either.

Fertility Factors

Alcohol is not the only substance that affects fertility. Other common foods and chemicals have been shown to either negatively or positively influence fertility.

Caffeine

The Mayo Clinic reports that female fertility is not affected by caffeine, as long as less than 200 milligrams of caffeine are consumed a day.

For men, other literature reviews concluded that while caffeine does not affect semen quality directly, it could potentially damage DNA and lead to fertility problems indirectly.

Smoking

For men, smoking has very direct consequences for fertility, with smoking even affecting the success of IVF treatments and lowering live birth rate.

For women, actively smoking while attempting to conceive also affected fertility in similar ways. Smoking appears to only really affect fertility while it is an active habit, so quitting before trying to conceive is suggested.

Overall Health

For both men and women, overall health has significant implications for fertility. Maintaining healthy diets with lower sugar and higher nutrients is essential to fertility.

Many times, men and women are advised to make lifestyle choices before they seek out infertility treatment. Simply shifting certain choices can have significant effects on fertility.

Health affects the success of treatments like IVF, so adopting healthy behaviors before and during treatments can really increase the odds of a successful pregnancy.

Controlling substances is a part of this healthy lifestyle. For men, this could mean maintaining a certain amount of alcoholic drinks for a week. For women, alcohol has larger effects during pregnancy than beforehand. If any of these factors overlap, such as increased smoking behaviors while drinking, then holistically considering your lifestyle choices will be a better option.

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