A piece of bad news for men living in the West: a major review of scientific studies suggests that the modern world is causing serious damage to men’s health as sperm counts have plunged by almost 60 percent in only 40 years for the males in the said part of the world.
Possibly linked with the problem are pesticides, hormone-disrupting chemicals, diet, stress, smoking and obesity. These are also associated with a range of other illnesses such as testicular cancer and a generally increased mortality rate.
Researchers from Israel, the U.S., Denmark, Brazil and Spain writing in the journal Human Reproduction Update, said total sperm count had fallen by 59.3 percent between 1971 and 2011 in Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand. Sperm concentration fell by 52.4 percent.
Researchers also said that the rate of decline has shown no sign of “levelling off” in recent years. The same trend was also not seen in other parts of the world such as South America, Africa and Asia. Fewer studies, however, had been carried out in those areas.
An expert describes the study as the “most comprehensive to date” and describes the figures as “shocking” and a “wake-up call” for urgent further
The paper said: “Sperm count and other semen parameters have been plausibly associated with multiple environmental influences, including endocrine disrupting chemicals, pesticides, heat and lifestyle factors, including diet, stress, smoking and body-mass index. Therefore, sperm count may sensitively reflect the impacts of the modern environment on male health throughout the life course.”
Chemicals linked to lowering sperm count include those used in making plastics more flexible, and flame retardants used in furniture. These can enter the food chain after they are taken in by plants or eaten by animals.
Diet is also a contributing factor with those high in alcohol, caffeine, processed meat, soy and potatoes may also have an adverse effect on male fertility.
Other than the obvious effect on the males’ reproduction, researchers also remind that the declines in the sperm count were consistent with reported trends in testicular cancer, the number of children born with one or both testicles missing, the onset of male puberty and total testosterone levels.
The researcher said that the public health implications are even “wider.” Recent studies reveal that poor sperm count is associated with overall morbidity and mortality. They are urgently calling for further research to determine the reasons behind the decline and to aim for prevention.