Sperm Everywhere Is Changing…and Not for the Better
In 2017 the medical journal Human Reproduction Update published a study that should rock the human race! The data showed that in Europe, Australia, New Zealand and North America, men’s sperm counts have decreased by almost 60% in the last 40 years and the rate at which it’s dropping is increasing. When you consider this in the context of 1000’s of years of reproduction and evolution, it’s a tectonic shift in our ability to father healthy babies.
The decline in sperm counts is already being felt as a contributing factor to the infertility crisis in the United States where one in six reproductive age couples are failing to have a baby after 1 year of unprotected intercourse.
Why is this happening?
Scientists point to several environmental, social and genetic factors that may be contributing.
In the United States, one in six reproductive age couples are failing to have a baby.
A review of the world literature from 2000–2016 by Carre published in the Journal of Environmental Health demonstrated that air pollutants cause defects in sperm development leading to reduced reproductive capacity.
A study out of China, a country that regularly places several cities in the worst 10 air quality rankings, demonstrated a near 1/3 drop in sperm count and motility among 30,000 young sperm donors, an age at which sperm is usually robust and resistant to most toxins.
Numerous environmental toxicants including heavy metals, plasticizers, phthalates, bisphenol A, along with chemicals involved with a myriad of industrial processes have been shown to affect sperm development.
Modern lifestyle is not sperm friendly. Poor diet, lack of exercise and sleep, and high stress increase inflammation in the body which can harm sperm. These same factors cause disruption in metabolism leading to higher levels of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease which worsen sperm quality.
Advanced paternal age
Men are fathering children later in life. In fact, over the last 40 years there has been a 60% increase in men over age 40 fathering children. As men age, their sperm counts and semen volume decrease. They are more likely to develop medical conditions that can affect sperm quality. Testosterone also decreases with age which affects both sexual function and sperm production – often leading older men to seek testosterone treatment which rapidly lowers sperm count. The rate of genetic mutations seen in sperm also increases with age.
What can you do now to preserve your sperm health?
- If you live in a highly polluted city, consider wearing a mask and using an indoor air purifier that filters a wide range of pollutant particle sizes
- Learn about possible sperm-wrecking toxicants in your work or home environment
- Adopt a diet high in anti-oxidants, good fats and fiber and low in saturated and trans fat, fried food, sugar and caffeine; and take a male vitamin supplement
- Adopt a regular exercise program and try to lower stress and get better sleep
- If you are older, consider freezing your sperm and don’t use testosterone