Alcohol and Male Fertility
Author: Christine Roth
Last Updated: 6/02/2022
Most of the effects of alcohol on male fertility that will be discussed below are done so in relation to alcohol abuse such as binge drinking, heavy drinking, and long-term alcoholism. In general, alcohol will have the highest negative effect on male fertility when it is being abused, and the effects should not be nearly as severe when alcohol is consumed responsibly and in moderation. Binge drinking in men is described as 5 or more drinks on one occasion (within 2 to 3 hours) and heavy drinking is considered to be 15 or more drinks in one week.
In general, it seems as though there are more negative effects on male fertility in relation to high alcohol consumption, high alcohol consumption puts your body at risk for not only complications with your sperm, but health conditions such as hormonal imbalances or deficiencies and sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s). However, there is a chance that these health complications are not permanent and may be able to be resolved with decreased alcohol intake over time.
How Does Alcohol Affect Male Fertility?
Alcohol has the ability to affect male fertility in several ways, including altering the sperm count, size, shape, and motility.
Over long periods, heavy drinking may also lower:
- Testosterone levels
- Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)
- Luteinizing hormone (LH)
Additionally, there is a chance that there can be an increased level of estrogen in the system when there is a lack of testosterone. With all of these factors combined, long-term heavy drinking is known to reduce overall sperm production which lowers the male fertility rate.
Does Alcohol Affect Hormones of Men?
Yes, alcohol has a chance to affect the luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) in men. It can also affect Leydig cells which produce testosterone. In conjunction with the effect on testosterone production, heavy alcohol use can cause the chemicals in the body that would normally produce testosterone to produce increased levels of estrogen instead.
It is important to keep in mind that these problems mainly arise with long-term heavy drinking or frequent binge drinking, and should not be greatly impacted by those who drink responsibly and in moderation.
Does Alcohol kill Sperms?
There is a very common myth that alcohol kills sperms, however, this is dangerous misinformation. While alcohol does not necessarily kill sperm, long-term alcohol abuse can lower sperm count and sperm production over time, which may lower male fertility. Therefore, alcohol does not directly kill sperms; it can only hinder its production.
Does Alcohol Affect Function and Quality of Sperms?
Yes, alcohol affects the function and quality of sperms, most notably by affecting their size, shape, and motility. Studies have shown that men who are heavy drinkers often have a higher number of abnormal sperm, in size and shape, and oftentimes the movement is significantly decreased. Much of this can be attributed to a decrease in hormones, LH and FSH, which directly impact not only the production of sperm, but as well as effects on other hormones such as testosterone.
Does alcohol Affect the Sperm Production of Men?
Yes, alcohol can significantly lower the sperm production of men. Much of this is due to damage to the Leydig cells which help in producing testosterone, and hormone imbalances. Additionally, these hormonal changes can cause the testes to shrink and cause further damage to the seminiferous tubules and Sertoli cells where sperm is formed and grows.
Does Alcohol Cause a Sexual Disease in Men?
Alcohol does not necessarily directly cause sexual diseases in men. However, some studies show that males who binge drink are, on average, roughly four times as likely to contract an STD than non-drinkers or those who consume alcohol in moderation. The CDC also asserts that men who consume alcohol are, on average, more likely to partake in risky behaviors such as unprotected sex and sex with multiple partners.
Additionally, HIV.gov echos these claims in saying that alcohol use increases risky behaviors that often lead to sexual diseases by affecting your judgment. Some of these risky behaviors, such as unprotected sex, are fueled by the myth that alcohol kills sperm, which there is scientific evidence to support.
There is also evidence, as suggested by the National Library of Medicine, that indicates that increased alcohol consumption, in the long term, is known to cause sexual dysfunction such as erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation.
How Much Alcohol Affects Male Fertility?
In accordance with the National Library of Medicine’s study “Alcohol and fertility: how much is too much?” by Kristin Van Heertum and Brooke Rossi, there will be noticeable effects on male fertility over a long period of alcohol abuse including binge drinking and heavy drinking. Binge drinking for men is described as 5 or more drinks within a 2-3 hour period, heavy drinking is described as multiple binge drinking experiences in a week, leading to 15 or more drinks per week. It is also at this level of alcohol consumption that fertility issues in men begin to become apparent in conjunction with sexual dysfunction.
Is Type of Alcohol Important for Alcohol Effects on Male Fertility?
The type of alcohol isn’t necessarily important in regards to the effects on male fertility, but it is important to keep in mind the different rates of Alcohol by Volume (ABV) in different types of alcohol such as beer versus spirits.
In accordance with the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, they explain the typical ABV of common drinks:
- 12 ounces of beer, on average, contains 5% alcohol
- 5 ounces of wine, on average, contains about 12% alcohol
- 1.5 ounces of spirits, on average, contains about 40% alcohol
Taking this into consideration with the number of drinks associated with binge and heavy drinking, we can see that alcohol consumption will be much higher for those who are turning towards wine or spirits rather than with those who stick to drinks with lower ABV such as beer. However, all can have a significant effect on male fertility over a prolonged period.
How Long Does Alcohol Affect Sperm Functionality?
According to the article “Alcohol’s Effects on Male Reproduction” by Mary Anne Emanuele and Nicholas V. Emanuele, some people can experience a change back to normalcy within as little as 90 days, however, these numbers can differ widely based on the amount of time someone has been drinking heavily as well as age and other personal health concerns, such as alcoholic liver disease or cirrhosis.
While some methods are being tried to see if these effects can be wholly reversed, there is not necessarily conclusive evidence on what is the most effective treatment. At this point, it seems as though the best option to help regain or boost sperm functionality is to avoid alcohol and heavy drinking.
Are There Any Positive Impacts of Alcohol on Male Fertility?
There is a small chance that moderate alcohol intake may be beneficial to male fertility, much in the same way that a glass of wine may help with inflammation or promote healthy gut bacteria. This is not necessarily seen in all cases, however, for some people, it seems, at the very least, not harmful.
The article “Men who drink a beer a day have stronger sperm” by Shaun Wooler, published by the NY Post claims that, “Men who drink a bottle of beer or glass of wine a day are more fertile” however, there seems to be little scientific evidence to support this. Even within the article, there is some disagreement. The consensus here seems to be that moderate intake of alcohol should not harm your sperm or fertility, but it is reiterated that this is not a legitimate means by which you can boost fertility and the chances for problems to develop do increase alongside the amount of alcohol ingested.
What Are Other Problems That Alcohol Causes?
Alcohol use, especially in cases of heavy use or abuse, is known to have the potential to cause several serious, long term health issues including, but not limited to:
- Impacting the female reproductive system
- Liver disease and/or liver failure
- High blood pressure, heart disease, or stroke
- Weakening of the immune system
- Learning and memory problems
- Mental health problems, including depression and anxiety
Alcohol is a toxic substance in the body. It’s not uncommon for alcohol to cause organs to fail when abused over long periods. If you or a loved one is struggling with alcoholism it’s important to find help sooner rather than later.