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Vaping and Sperm

A doctor claims that flavours in vape liquids has a negative impact on men’s prospects to reproduce.

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An academic from University College London (UCL) claims that a study carried out by a Masters research student shows that some flavours have a massive impact on the health of sperm cells. She describes the results as “shocking” and demands that action is taken to reduce the risks for men hoping to reproduce.

Dr Helen O'Neill is the lead author for the paper (titled ‘Effect of Electronic-cigarette flavourings on human sperm motility, chromatin integrity in vitro and mice testicular function in vivo’), but it was carried out by a student and supervised by Professor Joyce Harper. The findings have not been published in a journal for peer-review, instead they were presented to The British Fertility Society conference 2017 (BFS).

E-cigarettes are promoted as the health alternative to smoking, the healthy thing to do,” said Dr Helen O'Neill, introducing her presentation. “Vaping is less harmful than conventional cigarettes, but nonetheless they are not without their harmful effects.”

The BFS operates to promote high quality scientific and clinical research in the causes and treatment of infertility. The conference in Edinburgh is one of the largest UK events focussing on fertility and reproductive medicine.

The headline-grabbing conclusions from her study were that cinnamon vape flavours reduce the motility of sperm cells. This means they move more slowly, and slow sperm is highly unlikely to make it to the female egg in time to fertilize it. Also, bubble-gum flavours were found to kill off the cells in the testes responsible for producing sperm – meaning that sperm counts would drop and make conception less likely for couples hoping to have a baby.

O'Neill added: "In terms of motility, progression and concentration of sperm, there was a detrimental effect. There is very little regulation before they are allowed onto the market. Some are classified as food additives and that is how they get round it.”

Sperm samples were taken from thirty male candidates who were part of an in vitro fertilization (IVF) program. The academic claims the sperm was then subjected to the levels of flavourings commonly found in male testicles (flavours were added directly into dishes of sperm). As well as cinnamon, increased levels of flavourings affected made the sperm swim slower. Increased volumes of flavourings also affected how the sperm swam.

Question marks will linger over the second part of the investigations as well, until the full method has been published. To appraise how vape impacts on sperm production, flavourings were somehow delivered to live mice. After the mice were killed, an examination of their testes showed bubble gum had the most devastating impact on cells.

While the study raises interesting points, it leaves far more questions than answers. Some may be asking if this is nothing more than a repeat of the shock tactics used in the past to scare boys away from cigarettes?

Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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