Dear Dr. G,

I am a 33-year-old man who sends you this email you with some degree of frustration, having been married for three years now.

My wife and I have been trying for a baby for the last eighteen months with no favourable outcome!

While I am enjoying the process, when a man is expected to perform on demand for the sake of procreation, it will undoubtedly take the sizzle out of sex.

My wife suggested we consult a fertility specialist. When she was given the all clear, I just knew the blame is on the ability of the poor little fellow in my pants.

I have done the semen analysis, and discovered the quality of the sperm is not up to scratch. Apparently the numbers are low, the sperm are sluggish and not well-formed.

I was asked to get a tight grip on my lifestyle, and the urologist asked me to curb all the good stuff that keep men going; I was asked to lose weight, stop smoking, avoid the sauna and to stop drinking alcohol.

This week, I would like to put Dr. G on the spot for the scientific data supporting all these lifestyle changes that may or may not influence the fertility of a man.

I understand most doctors are encouraging a healthy lifestyle for the overall good of the patients.

However, I really would like to ask whether such lifestyle practices can really cause harm to sperm? Is it all anecdotal evidence or is there science has been robustly scrutinized?

The truth is, I love my alcoholic beverages. I really need to know whether the ethanol is really that harmful to men for baby-making?

Is my alcoholic sperm really that useless?


Alcohol Loving (wannabe) Dad

The World Health Organization has recognized infertility as a common obstacle faced by couples trying to conceive. It is estimated around 15% of couples having difficulties having babies despite active sexual contact with no contraception. The issues of infertility is believe to worsen over the next few decades as couples are choosing to start their family at later stages of their lives compared to the previous generations.

Despite common beliefs, the causes of infertility are not sorely due to female factors. Recent studies all revealed the male etiology related infertility is becoming more common. In the scientific terms, male factors infertility is measurable by the parameters of the semen analysis.

Men are considered to be infertile when the ejaculate constitutes less than 15 million sperms per ml, with a motility and morphology of less that 40% and 4%, respectively. In fact, a comprehensive evidence based meta-analysis has recently shown overall 32% decline in sperm quality in European men over the last five decades. So, what is killing the poor fellow in the pants?

The vast majority of the cause of sub-optimal semen quality is unknown, as there is no clear explanation for the impaired spermatogenesis.

However, a causal link between environmental factors and lifestyle habits are advocated. Naturally, “sinful” and unhealthy practices, such as an overweight, sedentary lifestyle, dietary factors, smoking and alcohol are all incriminated. Although many epidemiological studies suggest these factors play a role, however the evidence may not always be robust or consistent.

According to a recent analysis of 15 cross-sectional studies, the occasional consumption does not adversely affect semen variables

However, the same analysis noted that a negative association is noted with semen volume and morphology when alcohol is consumed daily and a recent Italian study actually demonstrated a total sperm count increased with higher alcohol intake.

The study revealed actual improvement in ejaculate quality in men drinking 4 to 8 units of alcohol per week based on 323 forty-year-old men.

On that basis, the authors actually advocated moderate alcohol consumption for couples trying to conceive, as it is positively associated with semen improvement.

One of the most influential American Musical Artists, Frank Sinatra once said: “Alcohol may be man’s worst enemy, but the bibles says love your enemy!” When doctors confronted by men with dwindling sperm quality, it is often easier to impose restrictions on the men to have a healthier life. Whether such impositions have a positive impact on the man’s fertility is impossible to measure.

When Dr. G is put on the spot by men on the issues of positive or negative impact of alcoholic sperm, his wise words are like the Greek Stoic Philosopher, Epictetus, who said: “If one oversteps the bounds of moderation, the greatest pleasure cease to please.”
Hence, only moderation can get those sperm tipsy without turning them alcoholic!

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