A newly-released study of 203 men with an average age of 31 has added fuel to the long-standing myth that a man with a full head of hair is more virile
than his balding comrades.
, says the Turkish study published in the medical journal Dermatologica Sinica
, goes hand in hand with a lower sperm count.
Significantly lower sperm counts
The aim of the study, authored by three Istanbul-based specialists from Süleymaniye and Okmeydanı Training and Research Hospitals, was to examine the relation between Androgenetic Alopecia
in men and the quality of semen produced.
In men aged 31 or under with moderate to severe male hair loss
(classified as stages III-VII on the Norwood Scale
) the average sperm count was found to be significantly lower - the Daily Mail reports almost 60 per cent lower - than among test subjects who boasted a fuller head of hair or mild thinning. It was also noted that the volume of semen was also reduced.
Researchers hypothesize in their final report that Androgenetic Alopecia in men could be the equivalent of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
in women. PCOS is caused by excessive testosterone production in the ovaries, which can trigger hormonal abnormalities, fertility issues and Female Pattern Hair Loss
Effect of SHGB glycoprotein
In order to provide as accurate a comparison as possible, volunteers had no 'statistically significant differences' in their age, body mass index scores, history of smoking
or varicocele (enlargement of the veins within the scrotum).
After carrying out these tests, researchers concluded that the sperm's parameters - including volume, density, motility, and morphology - were 'significantly lower' in particpants with 'moderate to severe' male pattern baldness than it was in those whose hair loss was classed as 'normal to mild'. The findings further detail how hormonal changes associated with hair loss could be adversely affecting the semen.
Drawing into focus a substance called SHBG - a glycoprotein, mostly produced in the liver, which binds the sex hormones - researchers note that previous studies have linked low SHBG levels with having an adverse effect on semen quality.
Androgens - which can be converted to genetic hair loss-causing DHT
in those with an hereditary predisposition, use of anabolic steroids, PCOS, hypothyroidism
, obesity, Cushing's syndrome
, and hirsutism are all known to decrease SHBG levels.
Type 2 diabetes was already been found to be more likely in those with low levels of SHBG. Earlier studies discovered an association between premature male hair loss, hyperglycemia/diabetes
, and low levels of SHBG. As such, researchers suggested low levels of SHBG could be a sign of insulin resistance and hyperglycemia/diabetes in patients with androgenetic alopecia.
Interestingly, each of these conditions - with the obvious exception of hirsutism - is also linked to hair loss.
Just one study
Whilst this research, which took place at an infertility clinic between October 2012 and December 2013 may sound like bad news for men with Male Pattern Baldness
who are hoping to start a family, it should be stressed that this is but one study. It is also a relatively small-scale exercise and to confirm these findings much wider-reaching, longer-term research is needed.
Clearly many men who are losing their hair, or are even completely bald, are able to have children, as the Daily Mail's reporting of the study highlighted - ironically, the article used a photograph of actor Bruce Willis to illustrate the story: Willis has fathered five daughters.
Any men who are using hair loss treatment
to help regrow their thinning hair should speak to their treatment advisor as finasteride 1mg
should be stopped one week before starting to try for a baby as a precautionary measure. It is fine to continue using minoxidil
during this time but we do recommend you discuss your specific situation with your dedicated hair loss specialist
in order to get personalised advice, and so they can amend your treatment course for you, where appropriate.
The medical community has yet to jump on the Turkish findings, suggesting a somewhat cautious approach to the idea that men with moderate to advanced signs of hair loss
by the time they are 30 will lead to infertility. There are multiple factors behind a low sperm count, just as there are with the reasons behind why one man is more predisposed to Male Pattern Baldness than the next man. As such, a sudden rush of shotgun weddings among prematurely-balding young men desperate to start a family is not yet anticipated.