We’ve known for a while now that, pound for pound, as a group, infertile men aren’t as healthy as fertile men. It started with research showing that infertile men have higher rates of cancer after infertility than fertile men. Then, it became clear that infertile men harbor more disease than fertile men. The latest data suggests that infertile men don’t live as long as fertile men and may carry more cardiovascular risk. So, what’s a guy to do?
You Matter a Lot
Now, there’s evidence that it also works the other way around: That is, by taking care of your health, your fertility may improve. In a Japanese study of over 3,000 men evaluated for infertility over 20 years, semen samples were compared before and after men were treated for 4 common conditions: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and uric acid (gout) abnormalities. Here’s what they found.
- Infertile men were more likely to have an underlying medical condition than fertile men (22% vs. 9%). And that’s in Japan, where men are typically thinner and fitter than men in the U.S.
- Compared to otherwise healthy infertile men, men with these conditions had lower sperm counts, lower sperm motility, lower testosterone levels and higher chances of having no ejaculated sperm (azoospermia).
- Azoospermic men were more likely to have a medical illness than men with sperm in the ejaculate
- Among infertile men whose medical illnesses were effectively treated for 6 months, their semen quality improved significantly when compared to untreated or poorly treated men.
- The chance of semen improvement after treating medical illnesses was in the same order of magnitude (2-3-fold) as that of repairing varicoceles, an established surgical treatment for male infertility.
You Matter to Your Sperm
This is the first demonstration that treating medical illnesses in infertile men can improve sperm production. And that is good news! For lots of reasons: It begins to explain why a large chunk of otherwise “healthy” men have low sperm counts. It also shows that, right alongside living a longer life, fertility might be improved by staying healthy. Further, it opens up a great path to treat male infertility without surgery or expensive assisted reproduction technologies. I’m not sure who said this but it’s true: “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” Please add “Get as healthy as possible” to your New Year’s resolutions!