Study finds surprising link between higher sperm concentrations and marijuana smoking

Study finds surprising link between higher sperm concentrations and marijuana smoking

Study finds surprising link between higher sperm concentrations and marijuana smoking

Since 2012, nine states (and Washington) have legalized the recreational use of marijuana, and attitudes towards the drug have relaxed.

There's also been conflicting evidence showing that pot use among men and women has no effect on a couple's chances of conceiving. It could be that males with higher circulating testosterone concentrations are also more likely to smoke pot and engage in other "risk-taking behaviours", he and his co-authors postulate. From the pool, they collected 1,143 semen samples. The men were enrolled at the Massachusetts General Hospital fertility centre; 317 of them also supplied blood samples that were analyzed for reproductive hormones.

The interesting bit comes when their past and present drug use was taken into account, with 55% of those surveyed noted that they had smoked marijuana at some point during their lives, while 11% identified as current smokers.

Smoking cannabis occasionally may improve men's fertility by stimulating sperm production, a study by Harvard University suggests. And while 12 per cent of non-tokers had a low sperm count (15 million sperm per milliliter of semen or less), the same was true for only 5 per cent of cannabis users.

However the authors wrote that their findings may not relate to the general population, and said their study was limited by the fact they relied on the men reporting their use of cannabis accurately.

Although researchers found a potential link between marijuana use and sperm counts, they warned that the findings are not definitive and do "not mean using marijuana is going to increase your sperm count", Chavarro told Time.

When Dr. Jorge Chavarro's team started investigating marijuana's effects on sperm, they had every reason to believe weed would prove detrimental to "testicular function", because other studies had said it to be so.

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Researchers have investigated whether using cannabis affects a man's fertility.

On the other hand the association could have nothing to do with the effects of cannabis. Allan Pacey, professor of andrology at the University of Sheffield, U.K., authored a 2014 study suggesting that using cannabis can impact the size and shape of sperm, and in turn male fertility. The men in the study reported smoking an average of two joints per week. What's more, it's a tough association to study as cannabis is illegal in many countries.

"This paper does not help us to get any closer to the truth", he said. Those who smoked marijuana in the past but don't now partake are more likely to have a higher sperm count than those who do.

But the experts said smoking marijuana does not help increase fertility in men, and that there was still more to learn about the cause-effect relationship of the drug.

Writing in the journal Human Reproduction, the scientists said it was possible that low level exposure to cannabis might benefit sperm production in some way.

The study also found that among the men who had ever smoked pot, "those who smoked it more often had testosterone levels an average of eight nanograms per decilitre higher than those who used it less often".

This article has been updated with comment from Feiby Nassan.

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