- Dr. Singh, ND
Scientific Update: Smoking and its Impact on Sperm Health
With about 1/3 of all cases of Infertility being a result of male-factor infertility and 1/3 being a combination of male-factor and female-factor infertility, it is quite obvious that the health of sperm cells is just as important as egg health when treating Infertility. Still, a source of significant debate is whether certain lifestyle choices, such as smoking, impact fertility or not.
A recently published research trial evaluated the correlation between smoking and various sperm health parameters, including the integrity of sperm cell DNA. About 100 male patients that were diagnosed with male-factor infertility were included in this study, and were classified as mild (1-10 cigarettes a day), moderate (10-20 cigarettes a day), or heavy (more than 20 cigarettes a day) smokers.
What were the results?
The results from the study demonstrated that the Men who smoked more per day, or had smoked for longer period of time, had statistically significant lower sperm health parameters. Specifically, sperm morphology, progressive motility, and total sperm count were all lowered.
Sperm DNA Damage:
The DNA of sperm cells is usually protamine rich. Protamine helps to condense and maintain the DNA structure compact and stable. However, smokers show a trend of higher amounts of histone instead of protamine. Histones will open up the chromatin structure and make it less dense and compact. This is believed to make the Sperm DNA more vulnerable to damage from reactive oxygen species (ROS) and inflammation. Indeed, the Sperm DNA in smokers in this study was found to have higher amounts of histone than protamine and the fragmentation rates of the DNA was higher compared to non-smokers. In general, those that smoked more or for longer period of time had much higher (almost double) the amount of DNA fragmentation rates.
Cutting out smoking altogether should be helpful in reducing the amount of oxidative stress in the body, help support the total antioxidant capacity (TAC) of the body and reproductive tissue, and help improve sperm health parameters. However, for those unable to quit smoking, even reducing the total amount of cigarettes may be helpful in improving sperm health parameters and reducing DNA fragmentation rates.
This article is in no way a replacement for medical advice or medical care, it is advised that anyone concerned about their Health should speak with their Naturopathic Doctor or Primary Care Provider.
1. Mostafa, R. M., Nasrallah, Y. S., Hassan, M. M., Farrag, A. F., Majzoub, A., & Agarwal, A. (2017). The effect of cigarette smoking on human seminal parameters, sperm chromatin structure and condensation. Andrologia.