Low sperm count has long been associated with fertility problems in men, but findings of a new study suggest that a man's semen count does not just hint about his reproductive capability.

Marker Of General Health

Researchers of the new study, which involved more than 5,100 male partners of infertile couples, found that a man's semen's count is a marker of general health.

Study researcher Alberto Ferlin, president of the Italian Society of Andrology and Sexual Medicine, said that infertile men are also at greater odds for risk factors and health problems that can negatively affect their quality of their life and even lead to premature death.

The researchers found that men with low sperm counts were 1.2 times more likely to have high blood pressure, greater body fat, as well as higher levels of bad cholesterol and lower levels of good cholesterol.

Ferlin and colleagues also found that these men more commonly have metabolic syndrome, which increases their odds of developing type 2 diabetes, stroke, and heart disease. A measure of insulin resistance, which is also a risk factor for diabetes, was also found to be higher in men with low sperm counts.

Men with low sperm count or having less than 39 million per ejaculate were likewise found to have 12 times greater risk for hypogonadism or low testosterone levels, and half of these men with low testosterone had osteoporosis or low bone mass.

"Our study clearly shows that low sperm count by itself is associated with metabolic alterations, cardiovascular risk and low bone mass," Ferlin said. "Fertility evaluation gives men the unique opportunity for health assessment and disease prevention."

The researchers, however, cautioned that their study does not prove a causal link between low sperm counts and metabolic derangement. It merely showed that a man's sperm quality is a reflection of his general health.

Other Studies On Infertility And Low Sperm Count

Nonetheless, the study presented at the Endocrine Society's 100th annual meeting in Illinois adds weight to findings of a 2014 study by researchers from Stanford University.

The study, which involved 9,000 men who sought help for infertility problems, found that impairments in semen production were linked to a range of health problems in men. These include heart and vascular issues, skin problems, high blood pressure, and endocrine disorders.

Earlier studies also show that overweight men tend to be at greater risk of infertility. Other factors such as inadequate sleep, sexually transmitted infections, and abuse of alcohol and drugs may also potentially lead to poor sperm quality.

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