A recent study has linked parental tobacco smoking to lower sperm count in sons. However, this study wasn’t looking at maternal smoking, but rather the smoking status of the father. The research team found that independently of nicotine exposure from the mother, men who had fathers who smoked during their pregnancy had half as many sperm as those begat from non-smoking fathers.
Study included 104 Swedish men
The study included 104 Swedish men (ages 17-20). When adjustments were made for mother’s smoking status, socioeconomic factors, and the son’s own smoking, young men with fathers who smoked had a 41 percent lower sperm concentration and 51 percent lower sperm count.
“I was very surprised that, regardless of the mother’s level of exposure to nicotine, the sperm count of the men whose fathers smoked was so much lower,” says Jonatan Axelsson, specialist physician in occupational and environmental medicine.
No firm theory as to why this association exists
There is not a firm theory as to why this association exists. However, paternal smoking status has been seen to correlate with other health outcomes, such as birth malformations.
Axelsson explains, “Unlike the maternal ovum, the father’s gametes divide continuously throughout life and mutations often occur at the precise moment of cell division. We know that tobacco smoke contains many substances that cause mutations so one can imagine that, at the time of conception, the gametes have undergone mutations and thereby pass on genes that result in reduced sperm quality in the male offspring.”
“We know there is a link between sperm count and chances of pregnancy, so that could affect the possibility for these men to have children in future. The father’s smoking is also linked to a shorter reproductive lifespan in daughters, so the notion that everything depends on whether the mother smokes or not doesn’t seem convincing. Future research could perhaps move us closer to a causal link,” concludes Jonatan Axelsson.
Razi Berry is the founder and publisher of the journal Naturopathic Doctor News & Review that has been in print since 2005 and the premier consumer-faced website of naturopathic medicine, NaturalPath. She is the host of The Natural Cancer Prevention Summit and The Heart Revolution-Heal, Empower and Follow Your Heart, and the popular 10 week Sugar Free Summer program. From a near death experience as a young girl that healed her failing heart, to later overcoming infertility and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia through naturopathic medicine, Razi has lived the mind/body healing paradigm. Her projects uniquely capture the tradition and philosophy of naturopathy: The healing power of nature, the vital life force in every living thing and the undeniable role that science and mind/body medicine have in creating health and overcoming dis-ease. Follow Razi on Facebook at Razi Berry and join us at Love is Medicine to explore the convergence of love and health.