Do aging, drinking, and having unhealthy weight have a synergistic impact on semen quality?

J Assist Reprod Genet. 2021 Nov;38(11):2985-2994. doi: 10.1007/s10815-021-02274-2. Epub 2021 Jul 29.


Purpose: To evaluate if age, alcohol consumption, and body mass index (BMI) have synergistic effects on seminal quality, and to rank these factors based on their impact on semen.

Methods: Retrospective study of 9464 patients attending an andrology laboratory. Data on patients' age and daily alcohol intake were provided by the patients. BMI was recorded in the laboratory. Seminal parameters evaluated were volume, sperm concentration and total count, motility, morphology, viability, nuclear maturity, and membrane functional integrity.

Results: All the seminal parameters evaluated were affected by the synergistic interaction Age x BMI, suggesting that this combination is more potent in affecting semen quality. The variables sperm morphology and nuclear maturity seemed to be especially susceptible since they were affected by the three synergistic interactions. In the logistic regression analysis, age was the most powerful factor since it impacted first on five of the nine parameters, impacting mainly on sperm motility, viability, and morphology, with no effects on sperm count. On the contrary, BMI impacted first in sperm concentration and total sperm count; which was confirmed also by the logistic predictions analysis. Alcohol consumption impacted first on membrane functional integrity and nuclear maturity. A J-shaped association between BMI or alcohol consumption with semen quality was found in the multivariate analysis.

Conclusion: The factors considered in this study showed a synergistic negative impact on semen quality, being age and unhealthy weight the most important ones. Reducing the exposure to lifestyle risk factors may be promising for improving sperm quality in infertile patients.

Keywords: Age; Alcohol; Body mass index; Semen quality; Sperm; Synergistic effects.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aging*
  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects*
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Humans
  • Infertility, Male / etiology
  • Infertility, Male / pathology*
  • Life Style*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Semen / chemistry*
  • Semen Analysis
  • Sperm Motility*