A newly published study suggests that young men who take high doses of ibuprofen for an extended period of time might be more likely to develop a hormonal imbalance linked to male infertility.
Ibuprofen is the active ingredient in Motrin, Advil and many other over-the-counter medications. It also ranks as one of the most widely-used painkillers in the world.
To investigate how the medication might impact fertility in adult males, a group of European researchers conducted a small, 6-week experiment involving 31 male subjects, ages 18-to-35.
Nearly half – 14 – were administered 600 mg of ibuprofen twice per day, for a total of 12,00 mg per day. This is the standard daily dosage taken by many amateur and professional athletes, as well as the maximum daily limit listed on the labels of generic ibuprofen products.
The remaining study subjects were administered a placebo.
After 14 days, the men in the ibuprofen group had developed a hormonal imbalance that resulted in compensated hypogonadism.
“We normally see this condition in elderly men, so it raises an alarm,” Bernard Jégou, a senior author on the study at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research, told The Guardian. “We are concerned about it, particularly for healthy people who don’t need to take these drugs. The risk is greater than the benefit.
Compensated hypogonadism has been linked to infertility and depression, as well as heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems.
This is not the first time that ibuprofen has been shown to impact male reproductive health.
Last March, another European study suggested that male babies who were exposed to ibuprofen during the first trimester of pregnancy experienced disturbances to their endocrine systems, suppressing the production of testosterone and other testicular hormones that control the primary and secondary sex characteristics and the descent of the testes.
The ibuprofen side effects seen in the short-term study are likely not permanent. However, it’s not at all clear that the consequences of prolonged ibuprofen use would be reversible.
“Our immediate concern is for the fertility of men who use these drugs for a long time,” co-author David Møbjerg Kristensen at the University of Copenhagen, said. “These compounds are good painkillers, but a certain amount of people in society use them without thinking of them as proper medicines.
While taking ibuprofen for short-term aches and pains poses no problem, the research team warned against using the painkiller for months at a time unless absolutely necessary.