HOW ACETAMINOPHEN (PARACETAMOL) AND ZINC AFFECTS MALE FERTILITY — Abstract.
In the developing and developed countries today, cases of infertility have been on the rise. Infertility refers to the inability to achieve pregnancy after 12 months of unprotected intercourse (WHO, 2000). The female partner is usually blamed for most of the causes of infertility, especially in Africa, but it has been discovered that the male factor infertility accounts for about 50% of infertility cases (Jarow et al., 2002). The major disorders affecting the male reproductive external organs are the penis and testicular disorders. The testicles (testes) are the site of production of the male hormones as well as spermatozoa, the male reproductive cells (Anson, 1966). Therefore, any disruption in the normal functioning of these organs will lead to reproductive impairment due to deficiencies in the semen; therefore, semen quality is normally used as a surrogate measure of male fecundity.
Acetaminophen, however, is an over-the-counter drug commonly used for management of fever (pyrexia) and pain (Anderson et al., 1998). It is used for the relief of minor aches and pains (headaches) and in the management of severe pain such as post-surgical and cancer pain. Due to these reasons, acetaminophen is often taken in excess without knowing its underlying effects on the body. Acetaminophen causes fatal liver damage (Daly et al., 2008), increased risk of stomach bleeding (Garcia and Hernandez-Diaz, 2000), and unknown to the majority, male reproductive impairment when taken in excess. Women are not left out of this because high doses of acetaminophen during pregnancy gives rise to undescended testis if the child is a male; but this is story for another day.
In a research that was recently concluded, high doses of acetaminophen has proven to be detrimental to a man’s reproductive health while zinc at normal doses (not more than 40 mg) proved effective in preventing, as well as remedying testicular dysfunctions as a result of acetaminophen intake by preventing hormonal disturbance and reduced oxidative stress. Twenty mature male Spraque-Dawley rats weighing about 200 grams were used for this research and they were randomly placed into four groups. They were housed and fed normal rat chow in the same conditions under optimum temperature and pressure. Group 1 animals served as control and were given 1 mL of normal saline. Group 2 animals were administered 3000 mg/Kg body weight acetaminophen; group 3 was administered 20 mg/Kg body weight of zinc and group 4 animals were co-administered acetaminophen and zinc. After 14 days, following consecutive administration, the animals were euthanized by cervical dislocation and blood was collected by cardiac puncture. Reproductive organs (testes and epididymis) were harvested for further analysis and oxidative stress study.
The results for the test groups were compared with the control. Sperm analysis showed reduced sperm count (concentration), motility and increased sperm morphological abnormalities such as head, neck and tail defects in the rats that were administered acetaminophen. There was also a marked reduction in testosterone level in these rats and testosterone is a necessity for the process of spermatogenesis. Zinc mitigated these abnormalities by causing an increased daily sperm production, increased motility and sperms with normal morphology in the rats treated with zinc. Zinc also combatted acetaminophen-induced oxidative stress by boosting the body’s antioxidant defence system. This was seen as increase in the level of antioxidants; Malondialdehyde (MDA), Glutathione (GSH), Superoxide dismutase (SOD) and Catalase (CAT) which protected the male reproductive organs from oxidative stress damage.
In conclusion, it is seen clearly that men suffering cases of infertility can benefit from taking zinc supplements at normal doses (not more than 40 mg) to increase sperm count, motility, morphology, and to improve overall sperm health. And in no time, the joys of fatherhood will ensue.