Your quest for a fuller head of hair or bigger muscles may leave you infertile, according to experts.
They argue that body dysmorphic disorders and societal pressure may lead some guys to take anabolic steroids (AAS), according to their letter published in The Association for the Publication of the Journal of Internal Medicine. Dubbed the Mossman-Pacey paradox, this theory is named after the two researchers who described the phenomenon: James Mossman, PH.D of Brown University and Prof Allan Pacey, from the University of Sheffield. They also note that this paradox can be applied to men who use medications like finasteride to treat balding.
Mossman was inspired to coin the term when working on his doctorate degree at the University of Sheffield.
“I noticed some men coming in to have their fertility tested and these guys were huge,” Mossman explained to the BBC. “They are trying to look really big, to look like the pinnacles of evolution. But they are making themselves very unfit in an evolutionary sense, because without exception they had no sperm in their ejaculation at all.”
This drive to become physically fit, despite the consequences, makes some men turn to anabolic steroids, they argue. In turn, this makes guys less evolutionarily fit.
Currently, there’s no accurate data on steroid misuse in the United States, according to the National Institute of Health. However, the National Health Service in England believes steroid abuse is a main cause of preventable male infertility.
“In evolutionarily blunt terms, no sperm = no babies = low fitness,” Mossman and Pacey wrote in their letter. “In other words, many men set themselves an unachievable goal of being both physically and evolutionary fit when using AAS, and put their masculinity and muscularity in direct conflict.”
Mossman and Pacey may have coined the term to describe the paradox, but it’s important to note that they did not discover the effects of steroid abuse or finasteride on fertility. It’s commonly known that anabolic steroids decrease fertility by interrupting hormone signals required to produce sperm, according to the Cleveland Clinic. And studies have shown that finasteride may cause erectile dysfunction and poor semen quality, reported WebMD. In both cases, guys can regain healthy sperm once they stop taking medication. However, men who have used steroids in high doses for long periods of time may experience irreversible harm.
However, Mossman and Pacey believe there needs to be more education about the dangers of steroid abuse, particularly among young men.
“It [steroid abuse] keeps cropping up in clinics and the message is not getting out to young men that it’s a problem and a bit of info could save them a lot of heartache,” Pacey told BBC.