A research team gathered male volunteers between the ages of 18-35, and gave them daily doses of ibuprofen.
The human brain compensates for testosterone deficiency by producing luteinizing hormone (LH), which sends a signal to the testicles to produce more testosterone. In common terms, the man's testicles don't secrete enough testosterone and the ability to produce sperm is impaired.
At the end of the study, the men who took ibuprofen had developed compensated hypogonadism, a condition usually associated with smokers, elderly men and those with reproductive issues or physical disorders. Higher-than-normal levels of luteinizing hormone can indicate a problem with the testes, according to the National Institutes of Health. "Using a unique combination of a randomized, controlled clinical trial and ex vivo and in vitro approaches, we report a univocal depression of important aspects of testicular function, including testosterone production, after use of over-the-counter ibuprofen", the paper reads.
"Long-term use of ibuprofen has other negative effects on overall health so people should only be taking it over a period of weeks, months or years if a doctor has prescribed it".
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'Concern has been raised over increased male reproductive disorders in the Western world and the disruption of male hormones has been suggested to play a central role. The higher and longer the level of exposure, the researchers found, the more dramatic the impact.
The study also investigated several other hormones produced by the testes that were found to be reduced by ibuprofen. Compensated hypogonadism typically develops in middle-aged males, yet the heavy dose induced the condition early on. This amount was used to represent the dose taken by athletes to manage pain.
Based on the results, researchers don't recommend taking ibuprofen for longer than the 10 days it says on the packet.
If you are concerned about your levels of testosterone and your ibuprofen use, though, it's worth chatting to your GP so you can get checked out and find a way to deal with chronic aches and pains in a healthy way.