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Vaping and male fertility, the connection

Cigarette smoke is one of the most well-known toxins negatively affecting human health. Recurrent use has been associated not only with many medical conditions, such as cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, but also with impaired fertility in men.

Essentially it affects all functions related to reproduction including semen volume, sperm motility (movement), sperm morphology (shape), sperm genetic material, and causes erectile dysfunction [1,2,3]. You may find our latest blog post on Smoking and How It Affects Your Sperm Quality highly relevant to this topic.

In the last few years, alternative to smoking like e-cigarettes, also known as vaping, has grown in popularity, promising less intake of the hazardous chemicals.

The major goals for the invention of e-cigarettes were to:

  • Reduce the mortality rate associated with traditional smoking
  • Assist smokers in quitting
  • Reduce the cost of regular cigarettes

How innocent is vaping?

To answer this question, we first need to understand what vaping is and how it works. Vaping is mainly inhalation of the vapor generated from an electronic cigarette. Electronic cigarettes were first introduced to the American market in 2007 and are becoming increasingly popular.

The device consists of a mouthpiece, a battery, a microprocessor, a cartridge for containing e-liquid, and a heating component that transforms the liquid into vapor. Since the liquid is used to generate the vapor, where the harm arises from.

E-liquid contains variable percentages of nicotine mixed with concentrated flavors and other chemicals like propylene glycol, glycerol, ethylene glycol, and polyethylene glycol. Especially the information about the ingredients of the liquid has been found to be insufficient by some manufacturers.

E-cigarette manufacturers have made a variety of claims indicating that they are safer than normal cigarettes and that their use facilitates smoking cessation [4]. However, the amount of information is still scarce, and as pointed out in a recent report from the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg, the use of e-cigarettes cannot currently be rated as safe[5].

How e-cigs work

Can e-cigarettes affect my fertility?

There is not much research on vaping and its effects on fertility – but the limited research out there suggests that it affects fertility in a negative way. One small study, which took place at the University College of London, indicated that the e-liquid in itself could damage sperm cells [6]. The findings were presented at The British Fertility Society, but were never published in a journal for peer-review.

Thus far, there are no published studies investigating the effect on vaping and fertility in males. Animal studies have found that nicotine negatively affects fertility in mammals [7,8] The only study on e-liquids, which was published in 2016, showed that male rats exposed to e-liquids with and without nicotine for four weeks, showed a significant decrease in sperm count of both groups, with the biggest decrease in the nicotine exposed rats, suggesting that e-liquid may harm fertility even without nicotine [9].

Even though there is still not much evidence around vaping’s effects on fertility, the existing evidence suggests that some of the chemicals in the e-liquid, even without nicotine, may be harmful for fertility.

Therefore, vaping cannot be considered safe, despite the lack of many harming constituents from regular tobacco. Since nicotine might be one of the harmful components, it is better to assume that not only e-cigarettes, but also chewing tobacco, snuff, and nicotine replacement therapy might harm male fertility. Some of these substances may be used to aid smoking cessation, but we do advise that their use of is minimized or completely avoided, especially for consumers with a goal of conceiving.

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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.