The principal investigator of the current study, Jorge Chavarro, Associate Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, USA, said: "These unexpected findings from our study highlight that we know too little about the reproductive health effects of cannabis and, in fact, of the health effects in general, to make strong statements about the impact of cannabis on health, with the possible exception of mental health". This could also be responsible for their higher sperm count.
Fifty-five per cent reported having used cannabis at some point in the past, and 11 per cent said they now used the drug.
"We spent a good two months redoing everything, making sure that there wasn't any error in the data", Cahvarro was quoted by Bloomberg.
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Lawmakers have become a lot more chill about marijuana recently. It could be that males with higher circulating testosterone concentrations are also more likely to smoke pot and engage in other "risk-taking behaviours", he and his co-authors postulate.
Among the participants, 365, or 55%, reported having smoked marijuana at some point.
Nassan also said that the results may have been skewed by cannabis prohibition.
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One explanation is that the men in the study who smoked marijuana already had higher sperm counts than those who did not.
All of the men answered questions about their marijuana use, and about half also provided blood samples that were analyzed for reproductive hormone levels. One 2014 study surveyed almost 2,000 British men and found that men under 30 with less than four per cent normal sperm were twice as likely to have used marijuana in the past three months. In the previously mentioned 2015 study, the men who used recreational marijuana a couple of times per week had lower sperm counts and lower sperm concentrations than the men who used marijuana less often. In comparison, non-cannabis consuming men averaged sperm concentrations of 45.4 million per milliliter. It's true that marijuana acts on the endocannabinoid system, which is known to play a role in fertility, so the authors say there could be some benefit to sperm production from low levels of marijuana use.
While the findings are certainly intriguing, it's important to note, as the researchers do, that the study is not without its limitations, and the results certainly don't mean that marijuana is great for your reproductive health - previous research has linked it to reduced fertility, after all.
"So, the relations we see between cannabis smoking, sperm counts and testosterone levels are because men with higher testosterone, within normal levels, have higher sperm counts and are more likely to smoke cannabis".
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Prof Chavarro said: "First, we do not know to what extent these findings may apply to men in the general population".