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Vaping linked to lower sperm counts, reduced sex drive, and shrunken testicles

A recent study conducted by experts in Turkey suggests that vaping, the act of inhaling and exhaling the aerosol produced by an e-cigarette or similar device, may be associated with lower sperm counts, reduced libido, and shrunken testicles. 

This alarming research was conducted on male rats and involved testing the effects of exposure to smoke from both e-cigarettes and traditional cigarettes on the rodents’ sexual health. 

Oxidative stress

Scientists measured the amount of sperm produced by the animals, the appearance of their testicles under a microscope, and markers of stress in the blood and genitals.

“It should be considered that although [e-cigarette] liquid has been introduced as harmless in smoking cessation studies, it could increase oxidative stress and cause morphological changes in the testicle,” said the researchers. 

Moreover, the study highlighted that regular cigarettes, which have long been associated with male infertility, were even more detrimental in terms of lowering sperm count and disrupting sexual function.

How the research was conducted 

The study was conducted by researchers from Sivas Cumhuriyet University and involved three groups of rats. One group was exposed to traditional cigarette smoke from Winston brand cigarettes, another to vapor from a Joyetech eGo Aio 1500 mAh vape, and a third control group was not exposed to either. 

The rats were placed under specially-designed bell jars and exposed to either cigarette smoke or electronic cigarette vapor twice a day for an hour each time. 

The researchers then checked the rats’ urine levels for cotinine, a byproduct of nicotine metabolism, and measured changes in sperm count, testicle size, and the Gonadosomatic index (GSI).

What the researchers learned 

The results revealed that the rats exposed to vaping had lower sperm counts, measuring 95.1 million sperm per milliliter for the e-cigarette group compared to 98.5 million per milliliter for the control group. 

The rats exposed to traditional cigarette smoke had even lower sperm counts, approximately 89 million sperm/ml. A higher sperm count typically translates to a higher likelihood of causing a pregnancy. 

Additionally, rats exposed to cigarette smoke had smaller and lighter testes than the e-cigarette and unexposed groups and a lower number of sperm able to swim.

Structural changes 

Further investigation into the structure of the testes under a microscope revealed that five of the eight rats exposed to e-cigarette smoke showed structural changes. 

Researchers were looking for changes in the areas where sperm are produced, signs of cell death, atrophy of tissues, and other markers of negative health impacts. 

Negative health impacts

The findings add to a growing body of evidence pointing to the potential dangers of e-cigarettes, once hailed as a safer smoking alternative in the early- to mid-2010s. 

Since then, scientists have discovered various health risks associated with vaping, extending beyond nicotine addiction to include high blood pressure, asthma, respiratory issues, a heightened risk of heart attack, and acute lung injury.

More than 12 million adults currently use e-cigarettes, and millions more children use them illicitly. Although these devices do not emit the same tar and known carcinogens as traditional cigarettes, the vapor produced is laden with heavy metals and other risky compounds that researchers are still in the process of identifying.

Further research 

A key limitation of this study is that it was conducted on rats, and the authors acknowledge that much more extensive research into the effects of vaping on human males is needed. However, the negative effects of vaping on fertility are not unfounded. 

A 2020 study conducted in Denmark on more than 2,000 men found that daily vaping had significantly lower total sperm counts compared to non-users.

Nicotine has long been associated with reduced sperm counts and low sperm density, meaning there are fewer sperm available to fertilize an egg and begin a pregnancy. 

Vaping and lower sperm motility

Heavy smokers have also been shown to have lower sperm motility, which refers to the ability of sperm to travel through the female reproductive tract in search of an egg to fertilize.

Toxic chemicals used to give vapes their fruity or minty flavors are also feared to damage the body’s production of sperm and their ability to swim. 

Ultimately, this study contributes to the growing body of evidence suggesting that e-cigarettes may not be as safe an alternative to traditional cigarettes as once thought. 

Further research is needed to fully understand the potential risks associated with vaping and its impact on lowering sperm count and overall human health.

The study is published in the Spanish medical journal Revista Internacional de Andrología.

More about vaping

Vaping has rapidly become a popular alternative to traditional smoking. But what exactly is vaping, and how does it work?

What is vaping?

Vaping involves inhaling and exhaling an aerosol, often called vapor, produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device. Unlike traditional cigarettes, which burn tobacco to produce smoke, vaping devices heat a liquid — known as e-liquid or vape juice — to produce vapor.

The mechanics of vaping

At the heart of every vaping device lies a component called the atomizer. When a user activates the device, the atomizer heats the e-liquid until it turns into vapor.

This e-liquid contains various ingredients: propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, nicotine, and flavorings. The ratios of these ingredients can vary, allowing users to customize their vaping experience.

Health implications

The health effects of vaping remain a topic of intense debate. Some proponents argue that vaping offers a less harmful alternative to smoking, as it doesn’t produce tar or many of the harmful chemicals found in traditional cigarettes. Indeed, several studies suggest vaping may aid in smoking cessation.

However, critics point out that vaping is not without risks. The inhalation of vapor can introduce harmful substances into the lungs. As mentioned previously in this article, vaping can also lower sperm count.

Recent cases of lung injuries associated with certain vaping products have raised concerns about the long-term safety of these devices. Additionally, the high nicotine content in some e-liquids can lead to addiction, especially among young users.

Regulation and concerns

Due to these health concerns and the surge in vaping among youths, many countries and states have started regulating vaping products. Regulations often focus on limiting the sale to minors, restricting marketing practices, and ensuring product safety.

Furthermore, the rise of flavored e-liquids has sparked additional debates. While many adult users enjoy these flavors, critics argue that they appeal particularly to younger users, potentially serving as a gateway to nicotine addiction.

In summary, vaping stands as a modern alternative to traditional smoking, offering users a different way to consume nicotine. While it may offer certain advantages over smoking, potential users should remain informed about the associated health risks and evolving regulations. As research continues, society will develop a clearer understanding of the long-term effects and benefits of vaping.

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