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Alcohol and male fertility – What’s the connection?

alcohol addiction - drunk businessman holding a glass of whiskey on the table

Staff Writer

Around 17.5 per cent of the adult population, which is roughly 1 in 6 worldwide, experience infertility, according to a new report published today by WHO. In comparison to the past two decades, there has been a noticeable rise in male infertility, which can be primarily attributed to shifts in lifestyle patterns that lead to obesity and stress.

Another factor contributing to male infertility is the disruption of sleep patterns, often caused by working night shifts. Certain hormones, released exclusively in the morning, play a crucial role in regulating the hypothalamic-pituitary gonadal axis. This regulation follows a rhythmic pattern. However, when sleep patterns are disrupted, this rhythm gets disturbed. Consequently, the brain’s release of hormones necessary for normal sperm production or spermatogenesis impacts male fertility.

Impact of Lifestyle and Occupational Factors on Male Infertility

Substance abuse, including smoking and alcohol consumption, has been linked to an elevated risk of male infertility. The influence of one’s profession is a pivotal factor in the emergence of male infertility. Testicular heat stress comes into play here. Professions demanding prolonged periods of driving, such as long-haul drivers, and sedentary jobs like those in the IT sector (involving over 4 hours of continuous sitting) contribute significantly to heat stress.

Additionally, exposure to radiation from sources like Wi-Fi, encompassing electromagnetic waves, poses potential risks to sperm production over time. Emerging research indicates a potential correlation between such exposures and defective spermatogenesis.

Notably, individuals in varied occupations, ranging from chefs and priests to rural farmers working with pesticides, face diverse stressors that can exacerbate heat stress, subsequently leading to diminished sperm production. The intricate interplay between occupational demands and heat stress underscores the rising incidence of male infertility tied to occupational choices.

Working out excessively in the gym is also not advised. The ideal time would be 60-minute high-intensity workouts, five days a week. Steroids, hormones, and injections for bodybuilding can also suppress hormone production, leading to reduced or zero sperm count.

Alcohol and male infertility


According to medical experts, alcohol consumption has a definite effect on male fertility. Understanding how much is too much is important. Alcohol consumption can be classified as – heavy, low to moderate and binge drinking. The most dangerous being heavy and binge drinking.

Binge drinking is when an individual consumes 4-5 drinks per day in a span of 2-3 hours. In such situations, the blood alcohol level shoots up suddenly and in the long run can result in many sexual dysfunctions like erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation and retrograde ejaculation (when sperm goes back into the bladder in the reverse direction).

Heavy alcohol consumption is when a person consumes more than 12-14 drinks in a week, or 3-4 drinks per day on a daily basis. This causes sexual dysfunctions and provokes an inflammatory response in the body which increases Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) thus resulting in oxidative stress in various organs.

“The increased oxidative stress in the testes causes sperm DNA damage and reduces the motility and production of sperm significantly. Also, chronic alcoholism leads to the development of multi-organ dysfunctions such as the development of diabetes, hypertension, and liver dysfunctions which in turn leads to hormonal imbalance,” says Infertility expert Chinmayie R (Garbhagudi IVF).

He adds, “In males, the female hormones in the body should be at a very sub-minimal level. However, for heavy drinkers, a rise in estrogen (female hormone) can be seen, which in turn reduces the size of the testicles and reduces sperm production.”

How does alcohol interfere with sperm production?


“Upon alcohol consumption, specific Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) are released, triggering oxidative stress. The degree of oxidative stress corresponds directly to the quantity of alcohol ingested. This process can induce cellular harm, including DNA breaks. When sperm experience DNA damage, their capacity for healthy function diminishes, leading to complications in achieving a successful pregnancy,” says Chinmayie R.

“Consequences may involve infertility due to DNA fragmentation and an upsurge in abnormal sperm production. With increased alcohol consumption, a reduction in gonadotropin and testosterone levels has been noted leading to testicular atrophy and reduced sperm production.  Few studies have shown that paternal alcohol exposure leads to low birth weight and neurological abnormalities in the offspring,” the expert adds.




●    Lifestyle: Maintain good health and follow a healthy diet. Keeping a watch on what you eat and drink can help prevent infertility.

●    Physical exercise: Being physically active can reduce the chances of obesity, which also has an effect on one’s fertility.

●    Stress: Managing stress levels is important. Indulging in sports activities over the weekends would be very beneficial for both your mental and physical health.

●    Avoid excessive drinking: Binge drinking is quite common in the urban population during the weekends. Drinking occasionally is acceptable but definitely avoid heavy alcohol consumption to reduce the chances of male infertility.

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