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.
Modern lifestyle is not sperm friendly. Poor diet, obesity, lack of exercise, lack of sleep and high stress increase inflammation in the body which can harm sperm.
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 testosterone level, sperm counts and semen volume decrease, and the rate of sperm genetic mutations increase. Older men more commonly use testosterone supplements which can drop sperm counts to near-zero levels.
Several studies indicate that particles in air pollution cause defects in sperm development leading to reduced sperm quality.
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 when 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.
What can you do now to preserve your sperm health?
- Adopt a regular exercise program and try to lower stress and get better sleep
- 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
- If you are older, consider freezing your sperm and don’t use testosterone
- 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 particles
- Learn about possible sperm-wrecking toxicants in your work or home environment