Ibuprofen has a negative impact on the testicles of young men, according to a study published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). When ibuprofen is consumed at doses commonly used by athletes, a small sample of young men developed a hormonal condition that usually begins, if at all, during middle age. This condition is related to reduced fertility.
Advil and Motrin are two commercial brands of ibuprofen, an over-the-counter pain reliever. Med News Ledger contacted Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, the makers of these two produtos, for comment.
The Consumer Healthcare Products Association, a commercial group representing over-the-counter drug and supplement manufacturers, “supports and encourages ongoing research and promotes ongoing consumer education to help ensure the safe use of over-the-counter medications,” Mike said. Tringale, a spokesperson for the organization. “The safety and efficacy of the active ingredients in these products has been well documented and is backed by decades of scientific study and use in the real world,” he added.
The new study is a development of research that began with pregnant women, explained Bernard Jégou, co-author and director of the Research Institute for Environmental and Occupational Health in France .
Jégou, along with a team of French and Danish researchers, explored the effects it had on the health of a future mother by taking any of the three mild analgesics found everywhere: aspirin, acetaminophen (also known as paracetamol) and sold under brand name Tylenol) and ibuprofen.
Their previous experiments , published in several articles , showed that, when consumed during pregnancy, these three drugs affected the testicles of male babies.
Testicles and testosterone
The testicles not only produce sperm: they also secrete testosterone, the main male sex hormone.
The three drugs are “anti-androgenic,” meaning they affect male hormones, explained David M. Kristensen, co-author of the research and lead scientist at the Department of Neurology at the University Hospital in Copenhagen.
Even the three drugs increased the likelihood that male babies were born with congenital malformations, Kristensen said.
For his part, Tringale noted that pregnant and lactating women should always consult a health professional before consuming medicines.
Knowing this, Kristensen continued, he and his team of researchers wondered “what would happen in the adult man”. So they focused their research on ibuprofen, which had the strongest effects.
As a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, ibuprofen is usually consumed by athletes – including Olympic athletes and professional soccer players , for example – before an event to prevent pain, Jégou said. So, are there consequences for the health of athletes who regularly use these medicines?
The researchers got 31 male volunteers between 18 and 35 years old. Of these, 14 received a daily dose of ibuprofen, which many professional and amateur athletes take: 600 milligrams twice a day, Jégou explained. (This dose of 1,200 mg daily is the maximum limit, as indicated on the labels of generic ibuprofen products). The remaining 17 volunteers received a placebo.
In men who took ibuprofen for 14 days, the luteinizing hormones – which are secreted by the pituitary gland and stimulate the testes to produce testosterone – were coordinated with the level of ibuprofen circulated by their blood in that period. Simultaneously, the ratio of testosterone to luteinizing hormones decreased, which represents a sign of dysfunctional testes.
This hormonal imbalance produced a compensated hypogonadism , which is a condition associated with impaired fertility, depression and an increased risk of cardiovascular events, such as heart failure and stroke.
In the case of the small group of young people who participated in the study and consumed ibuprofen for a short time, “it is certain that these effects are reversible,” said Jégou. However, it is unknown whether the health effects of long-term use of ibuprofen are reversible, he added.
Questions about male fertility
The World Health Organization estimates that, in developed countries, one in four couples of reproductive age can not have children, despite having tried to become pregnant for five years.
A separate study estimated that by 2010 more than 45 million couples, or approximately 15% of all couples in the world, were infertile, while another unrelated study suggested that men were solely responsible for up to 30% and they contribute up to 50% of the cases in general.
In addition, a recent analysis , published in the journal Human Reproduction Update , found that men’s sperm counts in North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand were falling. Researchers recorded a 52% decrease in sperm concentration and a 59% decrease in total sperm count over a period of almost 40 years that ended in 2011.
Erma Z. Drobnis, associate professor of reproductive medicine and fertility professional practice at the University of Missouri (Columbia), noted that most medications are not evaluated for effects on human male fertility before commercialization. Drobnis, who was not involved in the new study, did extensive research on the biology and fertility of sperm.
“There is evidence that some medications are particularly harmful to the male reproductive system, including testosterone, opioids and antidepressants,” he said. “However, prescribers rarely mention these adverse effects to patients,” he added.
She believes that the new study, although small, is “important” because ibuprofen is among the drugs that are used most frequently.
And, although new research indicates that ibuprofen interrupts reproductive hormones in healthy young men, she believes that there may be an even greater negative effect in men with low fertility.
Jégou agrees that more studies are needed to answer many questions, such as whether the effects of ibuprofen on male hormones are observed at low doses and whether the long-term effects are reversible.
Jacob Keil (MD) is a professor of psychology. He has conducted numerous research studies on media effects including the effects of bullying on adolescents, and “sexy media” effects on sexual behavior.. DR Keil has written for Maclean’s, Motherboard, the National Post, and the Huffington Post. There are several ways to contact Jacob Keil here.