Aside from the health incentives of indulging in an occasional glass of red wine, alcohol is basically never associated with health benefits…until now. A new study shows that drinking alcohol boosts male fertility.
A team of researchers in Italy found that moderate alcohol consumption increases semen volume, sperm concentration, and total sperm count in men. It mattered not the choice of drink, just how much and how often.
Researchers compared men who consumed one to three drinks a week, four to seven drinks a week, eight or more drinks a week, and those who didn’t drink at all. Any alcoholic beverage was allowed, including wine, beer, and hard liquor. A single drink was defined as four ounces of wine, 11 ounces of beer, or one ounce of spirits. Semen volume, sperm concentration, and total sperm count was highest in the group of men who indulged in 4 to 7 drinks weekly.
This doesn’t mean hopeful fathers should go all out and binge-drink. Rather, it means that men don’t have to feel that they need to abstain from alcohol to conceive, even if they are and their partner are struggling to conceive. Moderate alcohol consumption may even be something for couples to talk with their infertility doctors about trying.
“Since the dose makes the poison, they are counseled to limit but not avoid alcohol,” said study author Elena Ricci with the Fondazione IRCCS Ca’ Granda Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico.
The study, published in the journal Andrology, may give a sigh of relief to men who enjoy their beer.
That said, at least one other study in recent years has linked alcohol consumption in fathers to developmental issues in unborn babies. The theory is that alcohol consumption may affect genes carried in sperm that then lead to fetal abnormalities.
The American Academy of Pediatrics also advises women who are trying to conceive to abstain from alcohol to protect their unborn babies’ development. No amount of alcohol is considered safe during any stage of pregnancy. A neurotoxin, alcohol can have profound effects on the unborn baby’s brain development and can limit growth potential.
“Alcohol is probably the worst of all of the drugs in terms of effects on the fetus,” said Rajesh Miranda, the lead author of another study raising the question of whether men should drink while trying to conceive. “The data from human studies and from animal models is clear: Alcohol consumption during pregnancy causes fetal alcohol syndrome, and there is no safe level of consumption and no safe time.”
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