Pot Smoking May Lower Sperm Count
Pot Smoking May Lower Sperm Count – A new study finds regular marijuana may — similar to alcohol and tobacco — affect a man’s sperm count and vitality.
The study also found that pot smokers had changes in their sperm genetic profile that, in other studies, have been associated with abnormal growth and cancer. The study, which was published (Dec. 19) in the journal Epigenetics, could not determine whether these changes in sperm quantity and quality could affect the fertilization process and the health of the offspring, but the researchers advise caution nonetheless.
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“In the absence of a larger, definitive study, the best advice would be to assume these changes are going to be there [in sperm],” said lead author Susan Murphy, the chief of the Division of Reproductive Sciences in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina.
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Previous studies have hinted that smoking marijuana can lower sperm count, that is, the number of sperm in semen when ejaculated. The new study, however, is the first to show a strong correlation between THC concentrations in urine and the number of viable sperm. The study revealed more worrisome for the researchers was the degree of epigenetic changes among pot smokers.
The researchers found that the men who smoked marijuana had epigenetic changes in their sperm DNA involving hundreds of genes and two important regulatory pathways: one for helping bodily organs reach their full size; the other for basic growth during development. Several kinds of cancer are associated with the interference of these pathways, though this study did not find a specific link between marijuana use and cancer.
As with sperm count, the higher the concentration of THC in the men’s urine, the more pronounced the epigenetic changes to their sperm were. The research group’s corresponding study on rats revealed a similar pattern in the same group of genes.
Changes in sperm quantity and quality induced by marijuana smoking might not be permanent, Murphy told source. Men generate new sperm daily. Sperm take about 70 days to mature and then, if not ejaculated, will die shortly after that and be reabsorbed into the body.
“The sperm DNA… is not mutated in the traditional sense” by marijuana, Murphy said. “By definition, epigenetic alterations can affect gene regulation without changing the DNA sequence.
This means that, in the absence of marijuana use, new sperm may be able to develop normally. Nevertheless, damaged sperm from marijuana use could theoretically adversely affect the offspring, “assuming that said sperm is viable, capable of fertilization and results in a viable embryo,” Murphy added.