Can a Few Beers a Week Really Damage Sperm?

It’s a pretty racy headline from the Washington Post: “Even a few drinks a week lower sperm quality, study finds,”  but are small amounts of alcohol—as few as 5 drinks per week—really posing a threat to sperm quality?

The study, which was published in the British Medical Journal, earlier this week was based on a study of men in Denmark who underwent their compulsory medical exam for the military and were asked to self-report their drinking habits. But before you stop drinking out of fear of sperm damage, consider:

  • While the study’s authors found some effects from moderate drinking (5 drinks per week), abstinence was also linked to poorer sperm quality.
  • The study’s authors also note that “This is an observational study, so no definitive conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect. And the researchers point out that the findings could be the result of reverse causation—whereby men with poor quality sperm have an unhealthier lifestyle and behaviors to start with.”

You don’t even have to read the full study to find these nuggets—the study’s press release included these caveats. But of course they didn’t make it into coverage about the study. Moderate drinkers, fear not—your sperm is probably ok.