What a FUN topic we’ll be dealing with today! For those who don’t know, Western countries are currently facing a reproductive CRISIS! Did you know that sperm counts in men from America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand have dropped by more than 50 percent in less than 40 years?
Yes. FIFTY. FREAKING. PERCENT.
Sperm counts in Western men have HALVED. This fact, along with the ongoing trend of women putting off children until their thirties, is a double whammy for declining birthrates.
Want to know another fun fact? With every passing year, men’s sperm count has been dropping off 1%, “with no evidence of a ‘leveling off’ in recent years”. It’s clear that if this trend continues, men’s fertility will be an issue big enough to the point when the advancement of the human race is threatened.
So why is this happening?
The only clear answer we’ve been given is the vaguest one possible: modern life. But what particular aspect of modern life is responsible for this? Lots of varying hypothesizes have been proposed. Some are saying it’s the chemicals that we are exposed to on a regular basis. For example, chemicals linked to lowered sperm count include ones used to make plastic more flexible and flame retardants used in home furniture. Phthalates is what they’re called, and they are found everywhere. Especially in the coatings of pills and nutritional supplements, laundry detergent, hand soap, and hair spray.
Effects of these particular chemicals, which are disruption of the endocrine system, also seem to increase over generations because of epigenetic inheritance. Your father can pass down a very low sperm count to you before these chemicals lower your count even more. By the time your child rolls around, the baseline sperm count has dropped dramatically. This perhaps part of the explanation as to why there has been no “leveling off”.
The scary stats of falling sperm counts have provoked a huge response to the scientific community to find a culprit, including looking at potential dietary reasons for the sperm dilemma.
One study even found that dairy intake was inversely related to sperm motility and morphology. The researchers did admit that further research was needed to prove a causal link between a high consumption of full-fat dairy foods and detrimental effects on semen quality. Another study found that intake of low-fat dairy was positively related to sperm concentration and progressive motility.
Dairy products are filled with estrogens, so this hypothesis would seemingly make sense upon first glance. But what about everyone’s favorite “healthy” food groups: fruits and vegetables? Despite their ability to cause cancer and Crohn’s disease, they are championed by nutrition academia as being life-extending super foods!
It turns out that vegetarians have much lower sperm counts, and researchers at Loma Linda University Medical School say a diet rich in fruit and vegetables may harm fertility. Vegetarians and vegans alike may be harming their chance of having children, which is highlighting the concept of survival-of-the-fittest, if you were looking for a prime, modern-day example of Darwinian evolutionary theory!
Pesticides in fruits and vegetables have been found to lower the quality of semen. Sperm counts have been shown to fall with pesticide intake, as well as percentages of normally-formed sperm. The study found that men who ate the highest amount of fruit and vegetables with high levels of pesticide residue had a 49% lower sperm count and a 32% lower percentage of normally-formed sperm than men who consumed the least amount. The particular pesticides are known as Atrazine, Malathion, Chlorpyrifos and Carbendazim. If you’re going to eat fruits and vegetables (which you definitely should not), go for the organic stuff to avoid these sperm-killing substances!
Something that many vegans and vegetarians love to enjoy is soy. Soy and soy products have been shown to have a negative impact on male fertility. The growing of body of work supporting this hypothesis has been expanding in recent years. In one study, men who ate soy foods tended to have lower sperm concentrations than men who ate no soy foods. It’s not only bad for men, either. Another study shows that adult ovarian function can be negatively impacted by intake of soy.
So why should we be scared of such a rapid decline of sperm counts, besides the fact that it could threaten the future of our species?
Well for one, the lower your sperm count the greater your risk of dying. Irrelevant of just fertility issues, a high sperm count within a population is a measure of great health for that population’s men. Interestingly, the decline in the semen quality coincides with an increasing incidence of abnormalities of the male genital tract including testicular cancer and cryptorchidism in various countries.
This pressing issue can be resolved, but it takes an educated populace to understand the problem at hand. Focus on your own reproductive health. Perhaps a decline in fruit and vegetable consumption will aid in reversing our march with breakneck speed towards worldwide infertility.
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