When taken in high doses, ibuprofen may impact male fertility according to a new study. Published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the research found that when young men take the dosage of ibuprofen regularly prescribed to athletes — 600 milligrams, twice a day — it can disrupt the production of testosterone, the primary male sex hormone.
Ibuprofen is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug and is taken by athletes both to prevent and treat pain. In this study, 14 of 31 participants were given the daily 1,200-milligram dose of the over-the-counter drug, and after two weeks, they showed signs of dysfunctional testicles, which could ultimately lead to infertility.
But before you clear your medicine cabinet of Advil and Motrin, here are a few things to consider:
1. The sample size was very, very small
With a total of 31 participants, this is by no means a large-scale study. Are the findings interesting and a good starting point for further research? Absolutely. But more work is definitely needed in this area to come to any really robust conclusions.
2. The dosage in the study was very high
When you reach for the ibuprofen because you have a headache and pop two pills, that’s a total of 400 milligrams. Sure, there are days when you may have terrible cramps or an injury when you need to take three of the 400-milligram doses, but ideally, it’s not something you have to do on a regular basis. If that is the case, it’s a good idea to see your doctor about the cause of the pain and come up with a better pain-management solution.
3. The effects may be reversible
According to Dr. Bernard Jégou, coauthor of the study and director of the Institute of Research in Environmental and Occupational Health in France, it is highly likely the effects of taking ibuprofen will be reversible for the 14 men in the study who experienced hormone disruptions. Speaking to CNN, he said at this point, it is not known whether the effects from long-term use of ibuprofen are reversible and more research needs to happen in this area.
Like most scientific studies that receive immediate media hype, take this one with a grain of salt. It’s probably not a great idea for anyone to take the maximum permitted dose of any OTC medication on a very regular basis, and pay attention to your body and the potential sources of chronic or acute pain.