Father’s Smoking Habits May Impact Son’s Fertility

 In Naturopathic News

Node Smith, ND

A recent study has linked paternal tobacco smoking to lower sperm count in sons. However, this study wasn’t looking at maternal smoking, but rather the smoking status of the father. The research team found that independently of nicotine exposure from the mother, men who had fathers who smoked during their pregnancy had half as many sperm as those begat from non-smoking fathers.

Study included 104 Swedish men

The study included 104 Swedish men (ages 17-20). When adjustments were made for mother’s smoking status, socioeconomic factors, and the son’s own smoking, young men with fathers who smoked had a 41 percent lower sperm concentration and 51 percent lower sperm count.

“I was very surprised that, regardless of the mother’s level of exposure to nicotine, the sperm count of the men whose fathers smoked was so much lower,” says Jonatan Axelsson, specialist physician in occupational and environmental medicine.

Paternal smoking status correlates with other health outcomes

There is not a firm theory as to why this association exists. However, paternal smoking status has been seen to correlate with other health outcomes, such as birth malformations.

Axelsson explains, “Unlike the maternal ovum, the father’s gametes divide continuously throughout life and mutations often occur at the precise moment of cell division. We know that tobacco smoke contains many substances that cause mutations so one can imagine that, at the time of conception, the gametes have undergone mutations and thereby pass on genes that result in reduced sperm quality in the male offspring.”

Father’s smoking linked to a shorter reproductive lifespan in daughters

“We know there is a link between sperm count and chances of pregnancy, so that could affect the possibility for these men to have children in future. The father’s smoking is also linked to a shorter reproductive lifespan in daughters, so the notion that everything depends on whether the mother smokes or not doesn’t seem convincing. Future research could perhaps move us closer to a causal link,” concludes Jonatan Axelsson.


Node Smith, ND, is a naturopathic physician in Portland, OR and associate editor for NDNR. He has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine among the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend camp-out where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Four years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision.

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