A massive study of sperm quality and reproductive function has found that men with low sperm count are likely to have co-existing health problems. To reach this conclusion, researchers examined over 5 thousand male partners of infertile couples from Italy.
“Our study clearly shows that low sperm count by itself is associated with metabolic alterations, cardiovascular risk, and low bone mass,” said the study’s lead investigator, Alberto Ferlin, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor of endocrinology at the University of Brescia in Italy.
The comprehensive study occurred at the fertility clinic of the university and included measurements of their reproductive hormones and metabolic parameters.
Ferlin and his team found that nearly half the men in the study group had low sperm counts and were 1.2 times more likely than those with normal sperm levels to have greater body fat, higher blood pressure, “bad” cholesterol, and lower “good” cholesterol. More so, those affected by the condition were reported to have a higher frequency of metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that increase the chance of developing diabetes, stroke, and heart disease. Some men with low sperm count also had a measure of insulin resistance, an early sign of diabetes.
Low sperm count is defined as less than 39 million per ejaculate, a value also used in the US. Based on this definition, nearly half of the men in the study had low sperm counts. Those with low sperm levels also had low testosterone levels, osteoporosis or low bone mass, which is an early sign of osteoporosis.
The study also found that infertile men were 12 times likelier to have hypogonadism, a condition that leads to low testosterone levels.
These findings suggest that low sperm count is not necessarily due to metabolic problems, but rather that sperm quality can be an indicator of a male’s general health.
The new study was presented Sunday, March 18, at ENDO 2018, the Endocrine Society’s 100th annual meeting in Chicago, Illinois.
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