Marijuana use may boost sperm count, Harvard study claims

Marijuana use may boost sperm count, Harvard study claims

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.

For the new study, researchers collected 1,143 semen samples from 662 men between the years 2000 and 2017. These men were asked about their cannabis habits and previous drug-taking behavior.

Researchers investigated the effects of marijuana on fertility, particularly in a man's sperm count.

To the researchers' surprise, though, the cannabis users had noticeably higher sperm counts on average (62.7 million sperm per milliliter of semen) than did the men who said the never used cannabis (45.4 million sperm per milliliter of semen). The biggest one is that the possible effects of cannabis on men visiting a fertility clinic (some of whom are likely infertile already) might not be representative of its effects on men in general. This could also be responsible for their higher sperm count. "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".

"These unexpected findings highlight how little we know about the reproductive health effects of marijuana, and health effects of marijuana in general", said Jorge Chavarro, Associate Professor at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in the US. 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.

"There could be a non-causal explanation, such as the effect of the male hormone testosterone on both sperm count and risk-taking behaviour such as smoking cannabis", said United States lead researcher Dr Jorge Chavarro, from the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health in Boston.

More than half (55 percent) of the men reported having smoked cannabis at some point. Both of those numbers are still considered healthy; the World Health Organization's threshold for "normal" levels is all the way down at 15 million/ml.

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The researchers also linked greater marijuana use to higher levels of testosterone based on the blood samples collected.

The men taking part in this study completed a self-administered questionnaire that asked them about whether they had ever smoked cannabis, if they now smoked it, the number of joints they smoked a week, whether they ever quit and for how many years, age of starting to smoke it, the last time they smoked cannabis and the total duration of cannabis smoking.

"But the fact that we showed the exact opposite forced us to look very, very deeply into the marijuana health effects literature".

However, the researchers say their results need to be treated cautiously as other factors may account for their findings.

However, each additional year that had passed since a man last used marijuana a slight rise in sperm count would appear. They believe that some might have underreported their habits considering that marijuana was illegal for most of the study period.

"Our findings were contrary to what we initially hypothesized", stated Feiby Nassan, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard Chan School and the lead author of the study. First, these findings are consistent with a U-shaped relation whereby low levels of cannabis use could benefit sperm production due to the well-known role played by the endocannabinoid system, but potential beneficial effects reverse at higher levels of use.

The new study was published February 6 in the journal Human Reproduction.

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