Does Ibuprofen Cause Male Infertility?

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The headlines on January 9th were essentially screaming, “Ibuprofen Linked to Male Infertility!”. When I see headlines read like that, then I know is the time to look for the devil in the details.

The study in question was published January 8th in the journal “The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences”, and the key highlights from the study are:

  • In a small sample group of men (n=31, ages 18-35)
  • The men ingested 1200mg of ibuprofen every day for 6 weeks
  • At the end of six weeks, the men had a 23% increase in the levels of luteinizing hormone (LH). The rise in LH was noticed after just two weeks.
  • An increase in LH is indicative of problems within the testes.

It is important to note that the study did not measure sperm production and that testosterone levels of the men in the study remained normal.

Let’s also talk about the details that are important to not overlook:

  1. A sample of 31 men is very small. In medical research, it is not unusual to start with a small sample. If there are interesting results from the small sample, the researchers can then publish their results and make a case for why they need a larger budget. Once they have funding for a larger budget, the researchers can test a large sample and prove or dismiss the results of the small sample.
  2. 1200mg of ibuprofen a day, for two weeks or more. That is a lot of ibuprofen! 1200mg is the daily recommended limit, and if an ordinary citizen is taking that much ibuprofen everyday for two weeks straight, then that person really needs to be in the care of a pain doctor.

The lesson here is that more research needs to be completed on this topic, and that unless you need to be ingesting 1200mg of ibuprofen everyday for at two weeks, you should be safe to take ibuprofen as needed.

If you would like to read more about this study, the web site Live Science has done a nice job discussing the details, here.

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