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Can What a Man Drinks Affect His Fertility?

Katlyn Joy |22, November 2014


When couples are planning for a baby, most of the focus is on the woman and all the things she can do to increase her fertility. However, in cases of infertility, the problem lies with the man in about the same number of couples as for women.

According to a new study presented at the 2014 American Society for Reproductive Medicine annual meeting, held this year in Hawaii, men should be partaking of some cold ones.

Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston looked at 105 men from 2007 to 2013 whose average age was 37 to look at their beverage choices and their success rates with in vitro fertilization. All the men were seen at the in vitro clinic and were involved in that process to conceive a child with their partner.

The bottom line was that men who drink a pint of beer a day could double their fertility. However, men who were vegetarian or drank more than two cups of strong coffee a day significantly decreased their chances of fathering a child.

Men who drank at least 22 grams of alcohol daily were twice as likely to conceive a child through IVF than those who didn't imbibe. This amount of alcohol is roughly equal to 2 twelve ounce beers or two standard drinks. Those who drank at this amount had a 57 percent chance that their IVF procedure would be successful, compared to 28 percent of those who drank least or not at all.

Coffee was an entirely different story for the men. Of those who drank 265 milligrams of coffee, their fertility was negatively impacted. However, if they dropped the level to just under a cup a day, their fertility success rate rose to 52 percent. Those with higher caffeine intake had a success rate of only 19 percent in the IVF clinic, while those with the least caffeine intake had a success rate of 52 percent.

According to The Telegraph, lead author of the study and obstetrician at Mass General, Anatte Karmon, said, "High male caffeine consumption appears to reduce couples' chance of achieving a clinical pregnancy, while male alcohol consumption appears to enhance their chances."

What makes this study different is that researchers looked at the success rates of IVF procedures, instead of sperm quality.

While the caffeine and alcohol significantly impacted the birth rates, neither seemed to show any effect on sperm; not in quality, motility or shape.

Dr. Jorge Chavarro, co-author of the study and assistant professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston told HealthDay, "As far as we are aware, this is the first time this has been reported. There needs to be a lot more replication before anyone can make a strong recommendation to patients."

Chavarro cautioned those wanting to conceive by saying, "we know from other studies that alcohol at very high intakes is not a good idea" for men in infertile couples. The alcohol levels in this study are very modest."

The researchers say they are not ready to conclusively recommend those trying to get pregnant drink a couple beers a day and forgo all caffeine. They state more research needs to be conducted to see if other studies replicate their findings first.

The sad truth is that more research has been done to tell us about how nutrition affects the fertility of cows, pigs and other animals than what our diet does to our reproductive health.

While it's a good idea to adopt an overall healthy lifestyle and do everything in moderation, there are many things we still just don't know. However, it's wise to keep your weight in a healthy range, eat a balanced and nutritious diet, limit stress, and get plenty of exercise and rest.

If you neglect any one area, or overdo in another, it can throw your health out of whack, and logically, may impact your ability to conceive a child.

Karmon advised, "Anything that is good for your heart health is also good for your fertility. So do physical exercise and eat a well-balanced diet."

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What To Expect At Your First Fertility Checkup

Is There A Missing Link in the Pursuit of Fertility?


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