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Background: Ethanol (EtOH) is an agent that seems to exert an especially harmful effect on male fertility. The impact of high EtOH intake on fertility was demonstrated in numerous researches, with data suggesting that this effect may have been due to decreased semen quality; however, similar negative effects were not identified among occasional EtOH drinkers. There are currently no recommendations for alcohol consumption for men who plan to have a child other than avoiding high EtOH intake. Thus, studies on the effect of moderate and occasional EtOH drinking on semen quality are needed to develop appropriate recommendations for men planning to have a child in the future. The aim of this study was to determine whether changes in semen quality parameters and sperm morphology occur in healthy young men who occasionally exceed the WHO-recommended weekly dose of EtOH but are not alcohol dependent and do not frequently consume high amounts of EtOH.
Methods: The study sample consisted of 172 young men residing in urban areas. The semen quality and morphology of men who consumed more than 140 g of ethanol (high-risk group, HR, n=44) weekly was compared with that of low-risk group members (LR, n=128) who reported lower alcohol consumption.
Results: The only between-group difference in semen characteristics was the identification of a higher percentage of macrocephalic sperm in the HR group (P=0.011). Alcohol intake was the sole factor influencing the percentage of macrocephalic sperm (b=0.171, P=0.025, multiple linear regression).
Conclusions: We concluded that occasional alcohol consumption did not alter fertility but caused the accumulation of macrocephalic sperm potentially containing damaged DNA. Therefore, we recommend that men who plan to father children stop drinking alcohol at least 3 months before engaging in sexual intercourse that may lead to pregnancy.