My day does not start until I have a steaming cup of coffee as soon as I wake up in the morning. That’s true for most people as we all need an energizing factor to get out of bed, wake us from our sleepiness and kickstart the day in a reasonable way. For me, the consumption stops here but there are others in this world who go about drinking 5,6 or even 7 cups of coffee daily especially those working in shifts and staying awake for hours together. Until now we don’t have a clarity on the effects of coffee/caffeine consumption as researches crop up every once a while surprising us with benefits or overloading us with its side effects. Caffeine, the most important chemical found in beverages such as coffee, tea and soft drinks has the characteristic to be easily absorbed by humans, has 100% bioavailability when consumed orally, attains its peak within 15-45 minutes of consumption distributing itself throughout the body and has a number of effects on health. Limited consumption of caffeine has been linked to beneficial effects such as protection against cardiovascular diseases and lipid and carbohydrate metabolism while increased consumption can have disastrous effects on the body. One such effect is on the male reproductive system that can ruin the quality of life of the individual due to the inability to reproduce.
Infertility problems have been an issue for the past couple of decades and it is seen that almost 13% of the reproductive population suffers from these problems with male infertility factors contributing to more than 30% of them. Health experts and physicians blame our lifestyle habits, dietary intakes and inactivity as a cause for increase in infertility rates. The world has witnessed a decline in human sperm quality over the last few decades and even studies report a significant decrease in sperm quality in men residing worldwide including countries such as New Zealand, Australia, Europe and North America. Different lifestyle factors include alcohol consumption, smoking, drugs, obesity, paternal age and coffee consumption stay on top of the list and we are now going to look into various studies that have focused on the effect of coffee consumption on male fertility rates. Male coffee/caffeine consumption has been linked with high levels of testosterone and sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG). Apart from affecting semen quality coffee consumption also influences sperm DNA integrity. A systematic review from observational studies on the relation between coffee consumption and male fertility parameters such as semen quality, sperm ploidy, sperm DNA integrity and time to pregnancy was performed.
Systematic Review on Coffee Consumption & Infertility Rates in Males
Databases such as MEDLINE and EMBASE were searched with specific keywords such as ‘caffeine’, ‘coffee’, ‘semen quality’, ‘sperm quality’, ‘male infertility’ and likewise. The data was extracted independently by two investigators and the results reviewed critically. Initial search came up with 340 articles that could be eligible for review but finally after different elimination criteria only 28 papers were selected for the study.
Coffee and caffeine consumption in men belonging to various studies were collected in different ways. In a cross-sectional analysis by Talamanca et al. who studied 201 taxi drivers there was no relationship found between coffee consumption and sperm count or motility. In terms of sperm morphology, increased prevalence of atypical forms was found among men drinking 1-3 cups of coffee/day but the same was not found in those drinking more than three cups per day. A cohort study by Klonoff-Cohen et al. reported caffeine intake of both men and women during their lifetime up to a year prior to conception attempt. The link between their intake of beverages and various factors such as fertilization rate, multiple gestations, miscarriage rate and live births were reviewed and again, no relation was found between male caffeine intake and sperm count, motility and morphology. Some studies did suggest that those men with the highest levels of caffeine consumption had lowest semen volume when compared to those with little or no consumption but the results were not consistent even among these studies. There was even a study by Yang et al. that showed even just the opposite result. One result that did remain constant was the effect of cola consumption on semen volume-higher the rate of cola consumption lower were the semen volume levels. There was no positive data available on the association between coffee consumption and total sperm count. While two other studies too showed that an increase in cola consumption lowered sperm count there was no relationship observed between coffee/caffeine consumption and total sperm count. Total sperm concentration too had the same result as total count. An exception to this was the study by Marshburn et al. which found that men with highest intake of coffee had highest concentration of sperm count in comparison to those men who did not drink coffee at all but was also lower in comparison to men drinking 1-3 cups of coffee per day.
Sperm morphology was reported as percentage of normal or abnormal forms. Only one study by Marshburn et al. reported abnormal sperm morphology in men drinking 4 or more cups of coffee per day. A couple of studies found that drinking coffee was not related to sperm DNA damage and DNA stainability. A study by Schmid et al. on the association between coffee intake and DNA damage on 80 healthy non-smokers found that men with increased daily caffeine consumption have increased sperm DNA damage linked with double-strand DNA breaks. Two case-control studies compared coffee intake between men with impaired fertility rates. A study by Parazzini et al. explored the cases of men with unexplained dyspermia and found that risk of the disease increased with the number of coffee cups drank per day.
A study by Florack et al. found that men with low or moderate caffeine intake did not differ but those with higher levels of caffeine intake experienced a reduction in fecundability. A study by Curtis et al. found a slight decline in fecundability when caffeine drinkers were compared with those who never drank coffee. While there was no overall association with fecundability for male coffee, tea and cola drinkers consuming more than three cups of tea per day was linked with decreased fecundability. A study in North America by Wesselink et al. found that male soda intake had an inverse link with fecundability, male energy drink intake was also associated with reduced fecundability but caffeinated coffee, black tea and green tea were not. Decaffeinated coffee and tea were linked with slightly lower fecundability but soda had no such links. Studies on the success of ART among coffee drinkers found that male caffeine consumption had no effect on fertilization, pregnancy or live birth delivery. But increased caffeine intake was a risk factor for causing multiple pregnancies. For every 100mg/day increase in caffeine consumption there was an increase in risk of multiple gestations by 2.2 times during normal days and by 3 times for intake during the week of the initial clinic visit. The review shows that caffeine intake might negatively affect male reproductive function but epidemiological studies on infertility rates and semen parameters remains inconclusive.
Semen Quality Changes due to Caffeine Intake in Danish Men
A cross-sectional study among Danish young men from the general population analyzed semen samples for the effect of caffeine on fertility rates. Spermatozoa morphology was assessed in 284 men consuming more than 1 bottle of cola per day, in 97 men consuming no cola and 98 men consuming less than 1 bottle of cola per day. All the men were questioned on the various quantity of beverages consumed which included wine, beer, alcoholic drinks, cola, soft drinks, coffee, tea and chocolate-containing beverages. Their dietary habits were also questioned upon which included details about consumption of butter, cheese, vegetables, fruits, burgers and fish.
A total of 2,554 men participated in the study of which 141 fathered a pregnancy and 15 were examined for infertility. It was seen that more than 50% caffeine intake was derived from coffee and only 20% from cola as one cup of coffee contains about 117 mg of caffeine compared to 70 mg in 0.5L of cola. Results showed that:
Coffee & Caffeine Intake & Male Infertility: https://nutritionj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12937-017-0257-2
Caffeine Intake & Semen Quality in a Population of 2,554 Young Danish Men: https://academic.oup.com/aje/article/171/8/883/82236
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