Moderate Beer Drinking Reduces Sperm Quality, Study Claims

Hopeful fathers might take heed of the recommendations in a new study published in BMJ Open that claims that even a moderate weekly drinking can lower sperm quality. Even five beers a week is enough to lower sperm quality in healthy men, according to a report on Medical News Today.

Previous animal studies have indicated that moderate drinking could impact sperm quality, the researchers of the new sperm quality study said.

"This is, to our knowledge, the first study among healthy young men with detailed information on alcohol intake," the researchers said, "and given the fact that young men in the Western world [drink a lot], this is of public health concern, and could be a contributing factor to the low sperm count reported among [them]."

The research team included Professor Tina Kold Jensen of the University of Southern Denmark. For the study, researchers examined 1,221 Danish men who were between 18 and 28 years of age. All the men had been granted a reasonably clean bill of health at their medical exams for their military service.

They asked the guys how much alcohol they drank during the week right before their exam. They also asked if that level of drinking was common and how often they engaged in binge drinking. The researchers also looked into if the men had been drunk the month before. Each man provided a semen sample so that sperm quality could be examined and a blood sample to test hormone levels.

What they discovered could come as a disappointment to beer and liquor lovers hoping to father children while maintaining their lifestyles. Heavy drinking the previous month had no bearing on sperm quality, but the amount of beer, wine and liquor consumed the previous week did affect sperm quality, the researchers said. This indicates that a man hoping to impregnate a woman might need to slow down on the beer consumption the week before his mate's ovulation cycle.

Drinking beer, wine, or liquor the previous week also altered reproductive hormone levels and increased testosterone levels after the man's fifth drink in a week. At the same time, as the men drank more, their sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) decreased. A pint of standard beer equals two units of alcohol, according to NHS Choices.

When the researchers examined sperm quality, they examined the total sperm count as well as the ratio of properly shaped sperm and normal sized sperm. This might mean bad fertility news for the top 10 percent of American drinkers who drink over half of the nation's spirits.

That's not to say hopeful fathers should put away the beer all together. Drinking no alcohol each week was also found to reduce sperm quality. Ideally, men hoping to make a baby would drink between one and five units of alcohol each week, the researchers claimed.

The size of the study was large, but the study's design does have some limitations, according to Medical News Today. The study was simply observational and was reliant on the answers of the participants. Without further testing, it can't be said that the link is causal, though it could be, given similar findings in animal studies. The researchers indicated that it was possible that men with poor quality of sperm simply drink more to begin with for some reason, though that wouldn't correlate with earlier animal studies about sperm quality.

"It remains to be seen whether semen quality is restored if alcohol intake is reduced, but young men should be advised that high habitual alcohol intake may affect not only their general, but also their reproductive health."

In other beer news, a city in Germany plans to hire alcoholics to clean city streets and pick up garbage. The city plans to pay them with beer. The city claims that by offering them beer, it will reduce the amount of hard liquor they ingest.

Do you think that the link between drinking beer in excess is causal, or do you think that people with lower sperm quality and higher testosterone just happen to drink more alcohol?