Can working in a hot kitchen make men infertile ?

This is an excellent question and answer session on this very subject that I read online last year, and wanted to share with you.


Q My son works in a commercial kitchen. I’ve heard the chef Gordon Ramsay talking about “heat stress infertility” – but is this a real danger to my boy?


A Gordon Ramsay’s phrase “heat stress infertility” encapsulates two factors that might make it difficult for your son to impregnate a woman. Either the stress of being shouted at and harried from morning to night could be dampening his sexual desire, or the heat in the kitchen may be toasting his testes.

Any exhausting and stressful job – and there is no better example of this than a professional kitchen – will shrivel libido. Physically tiring or emotionally draining work leaves a man longing for peace and quiet, a pillow and sleep, rather than the embrace of a woman.

It was always believed that recruits when first joining the Army had bromide added to their tea to remove their libido. Not so. The true reason for their loss of interest in sex was that they were shouted at all day as they worked hard from 5am to midnight.

Most men’s libido would also suffer from life in a hot kitchen. The effects of heat on the physiology of the testis will become more pronounced the longer the exposure to high temperatures. And the harmful effect on sperm production may take up to three months to disappear. Testes need to be kept at a temperature that favours spermatogenesis, the manufacture of sperm. This process is not at its best if the heat is persistently abnormally high. High temperatures will affect the results of a standard comprehensive semen analysis, the sperm count, and the more detailed sperm DNA fragmentation tests.

Although men with poor-quality semen and low sperm counts are more likely to have sperm that show DNA fragmentation (abnormalities that can also affect fertility) the relationship is not consistent. Men with normal sperm counts may have DNA abnormalities. Research shows that many things can affect the ability of sperm to fertilise eggs: too few sperm, too many abnormal sperm, too little semen; or laggardly sperm which, instead of swimming purposely towards the ovum like greyhounds after a hare, stroll like shoppers down Bond Street. Conversely, excessive sperm fragmentation and DNA abnormalities reduce the chance that the ovum will develop normally.

The factors that affect male fertility in one way or the other are poor diet, smoking, environmental pollutants, drugs – including so-called recreational drugs – and excessive alcohol. Other causes of reduced fertility are: chronic infection, varicose veins in the scrotum, tight trousers, so that the testes can’t hang loosely but are held firmly against the crotch, or working in a sweaty, busy kitchen.

If your son is infertile, the first step is for him to have a comprehensive sperm assessment. When the results are known you and your son will know whether some change in lifestyle is going to be necessary if you are to have grandchildren to play with in old age.

If your son only has to give up drinking half a bottle of whisky a day, forswear cigarettes, refuse recreational drugs, and buy boxer shorts rather than Y-fronts, it shouldn’t be too much of a problem. It may be rather more difficult if he has to change his career. If he can’t face life without having a celebrity chef swearing at him like a drill sergeant, and the rest of his lifestyle is sound, there may be little that you can do.

Dr Thomas Stuttaford, The Times doctor, spent many years working in a genitourinary clinic

Read the fulll article here