Scientific study suggests ibuprofen linked to male infertility

A small study gives insight into the consequences of NSAIDs like ibuprofen

By Nicole Karlis
Published January 10, 2018 6:58AM (EST)

A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that high ibuprofen dosages can be linked to lower fertility in men.

The six-week study involved a group of 31 men between 18 and 35. From this group, some men took two doses of 600 milligrams of ibuprofen a day, and the remaining took placebos. The FDA recommends no more than 1,200 milligrams a day. Within two weeks, researchers observed in the blood of the men who took the ibuprofen that they had a hormonal imbalance condition called compensated hypogonadism.

“The complementary results revealed that ibuprofen induces a state of compensated hypogonadism by modifying hormonal profiles through selective repression of gene expression,” the authors explained in the study.

Compensated hypogonadism is a condition linked to male infertility, the study explains. It’s also been associated with male aging and a greater risk for cardiovascular events — such as strokes.

In 2017, a review was published in the Human Reproduction Update suggesting that male sperm count in Western continents, including North America, was on the decline — nearly 59 percent from 1973 to 2011.

“This comprehensive meta-regression analysis reports a significant decline in sperm counts (as measured by SC and TSC) between 1973 and 2011, driven by a 50–60% decline among men unselected by fertility from North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Because of the significant public health implications of these results, research on the causes of this continuing decline is urgently needed,” the authors said.

According to a separate study, at least 30 million men around the world are infertile, and of the 48.5 million couples that are impacted by infertility, 20-30 percent are reportedly to be found “solely responsible.”

Ibuprofen has been under scrutiny over the last few years. In 2015, the FDA issued a warning that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) — like ibuprofen — can cause strokes or heart attacks. Many athletes have reportedly integrated high doses of ibuprofen into their routines, taking the painkillers before performing to alleviate potential muscle pain.

The good news is that the effect ibuprofen may have on men who consume it for short periods of time is likely to be reversible.  "It is sure that these effects are reversible," Bernard Jégou, co-author of the study, told CNN, noting that impact on long-term users is still unknown.

Nicole Karlis

Nicole Karlis is a staff writer at Salon. Tweet her @nicolekarlis.

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Male Infertility