Written by Ben Bunting: BA(Hons), PGCert.
Caffeine is the most used psychoactive substance in the world and according to statistics, coffee is the one of the most drunk beverages accross the globe, so it is highly likely that you, and I, have had a coffee today.
In this article we cover the following points:
- Coffee and fertility
- Caffeine's impact on the body
- Can to much coffee impact sperm?
- Does coffee affect the rate of conception?
Coffee and fertility
When you are trying for a baby, one of the most critical factors you can consider is your lifestyle.
We know that lifestyle has a significant impact on the quality of the sperm, eggs, and the general health of the parents to be.
Deciding to have a child is usually a decision that takes some time, and it is carefully considered and discussed over time. There are a few factors that often come up:
- Living arrangements
- Support network
It is often the case that the person carrying the baby will make the most amount of adjustments the quickest.
Data published in 2017 has noted a notable decline in sperm count in the last few decades, which is likely due to lifestyle factors including diet and high-protein western diets, smoking, alcohol consumption, and lack of (or indeed, excessive) physical activity.
Caffeine is one of the chemicals that easily cross biological membranes and is distributed through the body. It takes between 5 minutes and 30 minutes to feel the impact of coffee.
While we know and understand that alcohol and cigarettes should be limited and stopped altogether, but a few question marks tend to appear when you discuss the impact of coffee. And specifically, if coffee is bad for sperm?
What impact does caffeine have on the body?
We know that coffee is one of the most consumed drink products on the planet, and some people say they can’t wake up without it.
Caffeine has an impact on the body - aside from keeping you awake longer by reducing the effects of fatigue which can help athletic performance.
There are no nutritional benefits from drinking coffee, and it stimulates the nervous system.
When in small doses, it can help freshen you up and make you feel more awake.
But if you consume too much, you are likely to feel agitated, anxious, unsettled, unable to sleep and appears to have an effect on mental health parameters.
Those negative feelings of anxiety and upset aren’t the best cocktail for a romantic and relaxing evening in the quest to conceive.
Just like many other addictive substances, the more caffeine you consume, the higher your tolerance.
Until you reach such a point that you need to consume unsafe quantities to see some impact.
Here are some of the physical impacts caffeine consumption has on the body:
- Trembling hands
- Rapid heartbeat
- Anxiousness and irritability
Can drinking too much coffee impact sperm?
It is believed that moderate caffeine consumption in coffee doesn’t impact the quality and quantity of sperm.
However, it is recommended that an amount of 400 milligrams or less is reasonable consumptionthat shouldn't bare any negative reproductive effects.
In other words, about two cups of coffee per day. However, it is estimated that men often drink 4 cups of coffee more per day.
A study by the Archives of Andrology suggested a high level of abnormally shaped sperm in men who drank more than 4 cups of coffee per day when compared to those who didn't drink coffee.
The National Center for Biotechnology Information in 2017 published findings that collated 28 research papers into the study of the impact of caffeine from coffee on sperm.
The studies used results from 19,967 men and deduced the following:
- Caffeine from tea, coffee, cocoa, and some other drinks did not negatively impact sperm.
- There is some suggestion that the caffeine found in soft drinks may impact semen volume, concentration and count.
- There was some suggestion that a makes intake of coffee may impact how long it took to conceive.
Most alarmingly, the sperm DNA may be impacted by the intake of excessive coffee.
A higher caffeine intake has some possible links to sperm DNA damage. Unfortunately, the results have been thus far inconclusive.
While there are many studies, the extent of the potential DNA damage varies in each set of research.
Does coffee have an impact on sperm count?
Of the studies that have been done to date, there has been no direct link between coffee intake and the sperm count in males.
What is more interesting is that when you consider other caffeinated drinks, like cola, there was a notable lowering of the sperm quality.
However, there were other notable factors associated with cola drinkers such as a general poorer nutritional intake and higher alcohol consumption which could contribute.
Does coffee have an impact on sperm concentration?
In a study done by Marshburn et al., it was found that the men who drank four or more cups had a higher concentration of sperm than men who drank no coffee at all.
However, it was lower compared with men who only consumed 1-3 cups of coffee per day.
A further study by Jensen et al. noted the same; however, they saw that cola caused a lower volume and count.
Does coffee cause DNA damage in sperm?
An exciting study by Robbins et al. found a direct relationship between coffee consumption and many chromosomal abnormalities.
Another investigation into the DNA impact on sperm from coffee drinking found increased DNA sperm damage, specifically double-strand DNA breaks.
While not all of the studies found a link between DNA damage and coffee intake, it’s not certain that coffee intake doesn’t impact DNA sustainability, fragmentation or damage.
Does coffee impact how long it takes to conceive?
An interesting study done in the Netherlands found that a moderate caffine intake was associated with a higher probablity of conceiving compared to a low intake of caffeine.
However, those who had very high caffeine consumption experienced a reduction in the probability of conceiving.
Conclusion: Is coffee bad for sperm health?
The conclusion from the many studies on the impact of coffee on sperm health suggests that while coffee is unlikely to reduce sperm count, it will negatively impact male reproduction through sperm DNA damage.
The extent of the DNA damage isn’t clear.
Using the studies as a guide, lowering coffee consumption to no more than 2 cups or 300 milligrams of caffeine (from coffee) per day would be ideal.
Combining this change with becoming more active and eating well will all help with conception.
A healthy diet that incorporates the right supplement can be one of the most beneficial things you can do to support your reproductive health.