Published November 16, 2011
Teenage boys may take some convincing about a new U.S. study that claims having sex during adolescence could stunt the growth of their reproductive organs.
Researchers from Ohio State University said that being sexually active while the nervous system was still developing can be linked to "lasting effects on the body and mood" into adulthood.
However, amorous young men may be even more reluctant to abstain when they learn the researchers' study subjects were not human teens, but male hamsters.
"Having a sexual experience during this time point, early in life, is not without consequence," John Morris, a co-author of the study, told the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.
He explained that the Ohio team studied sexually active hamsters at 40 days old, the creatures' equivalent of adolescence, as well as in "adulthood," at 80 days, and observed a group that went without sex.
The furry animals were chosen "because they have physiologic similarities to humans," the team said.
Later tests on the creatures' anxiety levels determined that the hamsters who were sexually active earlier on in life had a smaller total body mass, and a decrease in reproductive tissue, as adults.
"This suggests to us that maybe this process is causing the animals to have a maladaptive response reproductively, as well," Morris warned.
Sex in adolescence also left the hamsters more prone to depression and auto-immune problems, the researchers claimed.
The animals suffered an increase in an inflammation-causing chemical called interleukin-1, used by the body to fight infections, and had fewer complex nerve cells that carry signals to the brain from the rest of the body.
"Both groups of sexually active hamsters showed an increase in anxiety-like behavior compared to the control group, but the increase in a depressive-like response was specific to the adolescent sexually paired group," Morris added.