The meaning of life?
It seems every sperm is sacred... if the fine writers of Monty Python's Meaning of Life can be believed.
Yet, not all semen is created equal.
Unexpectedly, a history of smoking weed has now been linked to a higher sperm count.
So, have no fear, ‘sperm will not be wasted and god will not get irate’.
Monty Python would be proud of the latest findings of a large study published in the journal Human Reproduction on Tuesday. The study conducted in the Fertility Clinic at Massachusetts General Hospital, came as something of a surprise to Harvard University researchers measuring the sperm count of 600 men who were currently enrolled at fertility clinics.
They expected cannabis to have a detrimental effect on sperm count and fertility.
Instead, those participants who admitted ever taking the drug turned out to have significantly higher concentrations of sperm than non-users.
The study focused on 662 men who submitted 1,143 semen samples to the Fertility Center at Massachusetts General Hospital between 2000 and 2017.
The findings found that the 365 men who had smoked marijuana had significantly higher sperm concentration than the 297 men who had never done so.
Furthermore, there weren’t any statistically significant differences in sperm concentration between men who currently smoked weed and those who did in the past.
Analysis of the semen samples showed that men who had smoked marijuana had average sperm concentrations of 62.7 million sperm per millilitre of ejaculate while men who had never smoked marijuana had average concentrations of 45.4 million sperm per millilitre of ejaculate. Only 5% of marijuana smokers had sperm concentrations below 15 million/mL (the World Health Organisation's threshold for "normal" levels) compared with 12% of men who had never smoked marijuana.
The study also found that among marijuana smokers, greater use was associated with higher serum testosterone levels.
These results are the exact opposite of what their hypothesis predicted and what is generally thought, but they aren’t inexplicable.
“Our findings were contrary to what we initially hypothesized,” said Feiby Nassan, Ph.D., the study’s lead author and research fellow at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Previous research on marijuana smoking had suggested that doing so lowered sperm counts.
Yet smokers shouldn’t gloat, or float, just yet.
"These unexpected findings highlight how little we know about the reproductive health effects of marijuana, and in fact of the health effects of marijuana in general," said Jorge Chavarro, associate professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard Chan School.
"Our results need to be interpreted with caution and they highlight the need to further study the health effects of marijuana use."
There are several limitations to the findings, including participants underreporting marijuana use given its status as an illegal drug and that the study population consisted of sub-fertile men in couples seeking treatment at a fertility centre.
There are also few similar studies to compare their results against.
Like any early stage study, the results are open to interpretation and discussion; those who want to believe that sperm count isn’t affected by marijuana use, will...
... and the sceptics will maintain that having kids and marijuana smoking don’t mix.
What we do know is that both sides of the fence will always look on the bright side of life.