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Olga Boiko

According to a recent study published in the Human Reproduction journal, men who smoke pot may be able to produce more sperm than men who don’t. If that revelation is a surprise to you, you’re not alone.

“We spent a good two months redoing everything, making sure that there wasn’t any error in the data,” said study co-author Dr. Jorge Chavarro, an Associate Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health during an interview with Time. “We were very, very surprised about this.”

In part, what motivated Chavarro’s double-checking was the reality that limited studies on the matter have shown male sperm counts to suffer as a result of marijuana usage. It also hasn’t helped that marijuana’s often been lumped in with hard drugs like cocaine during similar studies.

Here, Chavarro’s team of researchers analyzed semen samples and health surveys of 650 men (with an average age of 36) who, along with their partners, sought treatment at the Massachusetts General Hospital Fertility Center between 2000 and 2017. What was found, proved to be most interesting.

In the health surveys, men were asked a number of lifestyle-related questions, including past and present drug use. Here, it was discovered that 55% of those surveyed admitted to smoking marijuana at some point in their lives. Meanwhile, 11% said they presently smoked marijuana.

Fascinatingly enough, it was determined that the men who have consumed marijuana have higher sperm counts and concentrations than men who have not. Sperm counts also proved to be higher in men who smoked pot in the past, as opposed to those who currently do so.

Now, Chavarro cautioned that this study’s results “does not mean using marijuana is going to increase your sperm count.” Rather, he believes, it could have more to do with a man’s testosterone levels.

“It is well-documented that within normal ranges, high testosterone levels are associated with greater engagement in risk-seeking behaviors, including drug use,” offered Chavarro. “Higher testosterone levels are also related to slightly higher semen quality and sperm counts.”

Although Chavarro and his fellow researchers may have uncovered a very interesting result here, the study also showed him how much more the health effects of marijuana need to be explored.

“We could have found what we thought we were going to find, and maybe wouldn’t have been as surprised and would have ended up writing a very different paper,” noted Chavarro. “But the fact that we showed the exact opposite forced us to look very, very deeply into the marijuana health effects literature. There is not that much. We are operating mostly on assumptions and good intentions and hunches.”

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