There’s a definite link between low sperm count and infertility, but a new study presented by the University of Padova at the 100th annual meeting of the Endocrine Society in Chicago, Illinois, revealed sperm might be an indicator of other health complications.
According to BBC, researchers studied 5,177 male partners of couples with fertility issues in Italy. The study looked for a correlation between a man’s health condition and sperm count.
Low Sperm Count Correlates With Poor Health
Alberto Ferlin, formerly from the University of Padova, but is currently part of the University of Brescia, led the study. Men in the study group went through different kinds of sperm analyses and other laboratory tests, as well as physical examinations.
Researchers set the threshold at 39 million sperm per ejaculate. Those who did not meet the threshold were considered to have a low sperm count.
Results revealed about half of the men in the study had a low sperm count or oligospermia, and these men were more likely to have hypogonadism. This indicates that their testosterone levels are 12-times more likely to be low.
Based on bone scans, about half of the men with low testosterone level had low bone mass or osteoporosis. Aside from poor bone health, men with low sperm count were prone to other health issues.
Forbes reports that these men were 1.2 times more likely to have metabolic syndrome — a group of risk factors which includes high blood pressure and high body mass index. This suggests greater risk of having heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.
These men were more likely to have a large waistline, high LDL, or bad cholesterol, and low HDL, or good cholesterol.
Dr. Ferlin explained the implications of these findings.
“Infertile men are likely to have important co-existing health problems or risk factors that can impair quality of life and shorten their lives. Fertility evaluation gives men the unique opportunity for health assessment and disease prevention.”
The study author clarified that low sperm count did not cause these health problems, but there’s a connection between the two. This means that men with fertility problems should also consult their doctor since their health is at risk.
A Need For In-Depth Studies
Kevin McEleny, Newcastle Fertility Center’s consultant urologist, noted that health problems rarely receive attention from men struggling with low sperm count. Fertility clinics have to think about other health issues in patients, he added.
University of Sheffield professor Allan Pacey believes that there’s a common cause of male sub-fertility and health, and there should be more research about this correlation. Hence, scientists have to design better studies to capture the relationship between health problems and low sperm count.