Ibuprofen is a very common over-the-counter pain reliever that we’ve probably all taken at some point. Sold under the brand names Advil or Motrin, ibuprofen is a member of the class of drugs known as NSAIDS (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). But a new study raises questions about the risks of frequent usage of ibuprofen by young men. The study suggests that taking ibuprofen in doses common among athletes can lead to a hormonal condition linked to male infertility.

A small sample of young men who took 600mg of ibuprofen twice a day developed a hormonal condition linked to male infertility.

The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is a continuation of research that began with pregnant women. Bernard Jégou, co-author and director of the Institute of Research in Environmental and Occupational Health in France, and a team of French and Danish researchers, began by exploring the health effects of pregnant women taking any of the 3 most common OTC pain relievers: acetaminophen, aspirin, and ibuprofen.

All 3 drugs are considered anti-androgenic, meaning they disrupt male hormones.

David M. Kristensen, study co-author and a senior scientist in the Department of Neurology at Copenhagen University Hospital, says taking these drugs during pregnancy even “increased the likelihood that male babies would be born with congenital malformations.”

So researchers wanted to look into what happened in adult males who took ibuprofen, which had the strongest results in the earlier study. Their findings are alarming. The research team used 31 male volunteers between the ages of 18-35. 17 men were given a daily dose of 1200mg if ibuprofen. The remaining participants were given a placebo.

Within 14 days in the men taking the drug, luteinizing hormones became coordinated with the levels of ibuprofen in their blood.

Luteinizing hormones are secreted by the pituitary gland and stimulate the testicles to produce testosterone. As this happened, the ratio of testosterone to luteinizing hormones decreased. This is a sign of testicular dysfunction.

The hormonal imbalance caused compensated hypogonadism, which is a condition linked to decreased male fertility, depression, and an increased risk of heart attack or stroke. Jégou said that for the small group who used the drug for a short time, the effects appeared to be reversible. However, it’s uncertain if the effects produced by long-term usage at these doses could be reversed.

According to Erma Z. Drobnis, an associate professional practice professor of reproductive medicine and fertility at the University of Missouri, Columbia, there is evidence that other drugs like opioids and antidepressants can cause male infertility.

But this study is particularly important, because ibuprofen is so common. Drobnis recommends that men who’re planning to father a child avoid drugs for several months as a precaution.

(Image: iStock / vadimguzhva)