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Does Vaping Decrease Male Fertility?

When vaping hit the scene in the mid-2000s, it was billed as a ‘safe’ version of smoking. However, two decades later, it’s becoming increasingly clear that there’s more to it than meets the eye. More and more research, like the recent study out of Turkey, indicates that vaping may not only be harmful to our overall health, but our fertility too. Here we’ll break down what we know so far about the impact of vaping on sperm health.

 

Firstly – what is vaping exactly?

It’s easy to assume that vaping is just about clouds of sweet-smelling smoking emanating from teenagers – but how do they work and what is inside of them?
A vape or e-cigarette enables you to inhale nicotine in a vapor, rather than smoke. This means that instead of burning tobacco – as cigarettes do – a vape device heats a water-based liquid that can contain any number of things – from nicotine to flavors to weed. This creates a water vapor you inhale and exhale.
When vaping first hit the mainstream, the fact that they don’t produce tar or carbon monoxide – some of the most damaging byproducts of tobacco smoke – seemed like a huge win! It quickly became a popular alternative to smoking – and even something many smokers took up whilst trying to quit cigarettes.

 

What’s in a Vape and is vaping safe?

Whilst in some ways, vaping may be better for your health than smoking, the truth is that they still contain a whole host of harmful chemicals that can cause you physical damage, such as:

  • Nicotine – like cigarettes. Nicotine puts you at risk of heart attack, raised blood pressure and issues with your heart rate
  • Formaldehyde – a highly toxic chemical used in building materials!
  • Ultrafine particles that can cause lung damage
  • Diacetyl, a chemical connected to numerous lung diseases
  • Heavy metals such as lead
  • Acrolein, a herbicide which can cause lung damage
  • Diethylene glycol and propylene glycol, which are associated with lung disease
  • Cadmium, a toxic metal also found in standard cigarettes
  • Benzene, a carcinogen also found in car exhaust fumes!

 

The Research into Vaping and Male Fertility

As always, there is still so much we need to learn about male fertility and the things that affect it. However recent studies seem to imply that vaping is not great for our sperm health!

A recent animal study conducted by Turkish researchers at Sivas Cumhuriyet University suggests that vaping may be associated with lower sperm counts, lower libido, and smaller testicles.

The study involved three sets of rats. One group was regularly exposed to cigarette smoke, one group was exposed to vape vapour and a third control group wasn’t exposed to either.

The results were pretty interesting. The rats exposed to vaping had an average sperm count of 95.1 million sperm per milliliter compared to 98.5 million per milliliter for the rats in the control group. However, the traditional cigarette smoke group came off the worst – with an average sperm count of approximately 89 million sperm/ml.

Whilst the study has limitations – it is on rats after all – it certainly implies that vaping isn’t as safe as we may have thought. Whilst this might be the most recent research, it’s certainly not the only study that highlights the link between vaping and impaired male fertility.

In another animal study from 2016, the testosterone levels of rats were negatively impacted by exposure to vape liquid – even if it contained no nicotine. In 2017 a study carried out by University College London flavored e-cigarettes were linked with sperm damage.

There have also been studies which have focused on humans. In 2020, a Danish study found men who regularly vaped had lower sperm counts than their totally smoke-free counterparts.

 

Should I quit vaping if I am trying to conceive?

The short answer is – probably. Whilst vaping may not be as harmful to your sperm health as smoking cigarettes – it certainly seems to have its own set of problems. When it comes to protecting your fertility, you want to do everything you can to limit toxic chemicals getting into your body. That includes thinking about eating organic foods, being conscious of the amount of plastic you use – and vaping. If you’re a smoker, it might seem like vaping is a good stepping stone to quitting, but stubbing out altogether is the only way to guarantee you aren’t harming your swimmers.

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Wearing tight pants and underwear

Studies show that men who wear looser underwear have higher sperm concentration and total sperm count compared to men who wear tighter underwear. So, lose the tight clothes and wear something loose to give your testicles some air.

CONCLUSION: learn more about how heat can affect sperm quality here.

Stress

Besides higher mortality rate and various diseases, stress is associated with low sperm quality. Stress is known to be associated with lower testosterone levels and oxidative stress with both playing an essential role in producing and maintaining healthy sperm cells.

CONCLUSION: If you feel stressed, we recommend you get some help so you can have a balanced mental health. For a stress management guide, download the ExSeed app for free and start your personalized action plan today.

Physical activity

Scientific studies show that men who are physically active have better semen parameters than men who are inactive. Fertility specialists also state that regular physical activity has beneficial impact on sperm fertility parameters and such a lifestyle can enhance the fertility status of men.

Prioritizing exercise can help improve your overall health and result in healthy, fast swimming sperm cells that have good chances of fertilizing an egg.

CONCLUSION: Try incorporating exercise in your weekly schedule to you ensure exercising at least twice weekly. We recommend a combination of cardio training and strength exercise. Read more about exercise and male fertility on our blog.

Nutrition

Fast Food
Processed foods damage the health of sperm-producing cells and cause oxidative stress, which lead to poorer sperm quality. Heavy consumption of junk food (every week) can increase the likelihood of infertility since men who consume vast amounts of unhealthy food are at risk of having poor sperm quality. Besides harming your fertility, junk food enlarges your waistline, harms your cardiovascular system, kidneys, and more.

Vegetables
Eating more fruit and vegetables can increase your sperm concentration and motility. It’s important that you consume a healthy diet filled with antioxidants and that you eat vegetables every day. Foods such as apricots and red bell peppers are high in vitamin A, which improves male fertility by nurturing healthier sperm. Men who are deficient in this vitamin tend to have slow and sluggish sperm.

Sugary snacks/beverages: several times a week Excessive consumption of high sugar items can lead to oxidative stress, which negatively impacts testosterone levels and sperm motility. Sugary snacks and beverages are also highly associated with obesity and low fertility.
CONCLUSION: To boost sperm quality, stay away from fast food, processed food, and sugary snacks or beverages. You need to implement a healthy prudent diet filled with necessary superfoods needed for good sperm production. Check out our guide to Male Fertility Superfoods. For personalized guidance and support on how you can start improving your sperm health, check out the Bootcamp.

Heat

Direct heat can inhibit optimal sperm production and cause Sperm DNA damage. Sperm cells like environments that are a couple of degrees lower than body temperature. Avoid overheating from warm blankets, seat warmers, heat from your laptop, hot showers, and saunas.

Cigarette smoking

The exposure to tobacco smoke has significant negative effects on semen quality. The damage of cigarettes and nicotine of course depends on how many cigarettes you smoke per day and for how long, but even low usage (up to 10 cigarettes / day) can inhibit healthy sperm production.  

CONCLUSION: Stay as far away from cigarette smoking as possible if you care about your general health and your fertility. Read more here.

Cell phone

When you have your cell phone in your front pocket, your testicles are exposed to electromagnetic radiation, which studies have shown to damage the sperm cells. Put your phone in the back pocket of your pants or in your jacket pocket.

BMI

There is a clear association between obesity and reduced sperm quality. At least part of the reason for this is that obese men may have abnormal reproductive hormonal profiles, which can impair sperm production and lead to infertility. 

A BMI higher than 30 can lead to several processes in the body (overheating, increase in oxidative stress in the testes, sperm DNA damage, erectile dysfunction) that can have a negative impact on male fertility. This can result in problems when trying to conceive.  

CONCLUSION: BMI is one of the risk factors that influence semen quality and, for example, sperm motility.  

Alcohol

A beer or glass of wine now and then do not really harm sperm quality. But excess alcohol drinking (more than 20 units per week) can reduce the production of normally formed sperm needed for a successful pregnancy.

CONCLUSION: If you want to stay safe, stay under 14 units of alcohol per week. For more information on how alcohol can affect male fertility, take a look at our blog: “Alcohol and Sperm Quality”.

Age

Studies show that women younger than 35 and men younger than 40 have a better chance of getting pregnant. Men can produce sperm cells almost through their entire life, but the sperm cell DNA is more fragile and prone to damage after the age of 40.

As men age, their testes tend to get smaller and softer resulting in a decline in sperm quality and production. These changes are partly because of an age-related decrease in testosterone level, which plays a very important role in sperm

production. Higher male age (>40 years) is not only associated with a decline in sperm production but also with increased sperm DNA fragmentation and worsened morphology (shape) and motility (movement). These negative effects make the sperm cells less qualified for egg fertilization.

CONCLUSION: with an age under 40, you shouldn’t have to worry much about age as a factor in itself. However, studies have shown a slow decline after the age of 30-35 years

and if you are above 40 years of age, your sperm quality can be affected due to increased sperm DNA damage resulting in a decrease of sperm motility and concentration. Remember that you cannot evaluate the quality of a sperm sample by just looking at it – this requires a sperm analysis.