Sperm Counts Continue to Decline Globally – Here’s Why

March 19, 2019

Men's Health

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It appears sperm counts are declining to troubling levels, according to authors who conducted the largest meta-analysis of its kind. Between 1973 and 2013, sperm counts dropped by more than 50 percent around the world, with the most significant declines seen in North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Sperm levels in those areas were at a level at which men would have difficulty fertilizing an egg; that is, less than 40 million/mL. So should we be concerned about these declining sperm counts?

In fact, according to Frederick vom Saal, professor emeritus of biological sciences at the University of Missouri, the declining sperm levels indicate a “death spiral of infertility in men” and that this decline is a sign that human extinction is a “very real possibility, should the trend continue unabated.”

Why are sperm counts declining?

Why are sperm counts and concentrations declining? Experts believe that modern technology is largely to blame for this drop. Lifestyle choices are also a part of the problem. Among the culprits are:

  • Exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals, such as those found in common health products (e.g., shampoo, deodorant, lotions, soaps), some foods, building materials, household items, and many plastic products. Some of them include arsenic, atrazine, bisphenol-A (BPA), dioxin, fire retardants, lead, mercury, organophosphate pesticides, perchlorate, and phthalates
  • Exposure to radiation from electronic devices and microwaves, including using a laptop on your lap
  • Obesity
  • Exposure to ethinyl estradiol (a synthetic sex hormone) through contaminated water, personal care products, herbicides, nonorganic foods, plastics and other sources
  • Lack of exercise
  • Infections
  • Celiac disease
  • Smoking
  • Heavy metal exposure
  • Alcohol use
  • Hormone imbalance
  • Use of certain medications (e.g., antibiotics, antifungals, chemotherapy), among others
  • The presence of about 200 industrial pollutants in the umbilical cord blood of US born infants can serve as a contributing factor
  • Exposure to electromagnetic fields
  • Nutritional deficiencies and/or food intolerances (omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D are especially important)
  • Physical and/or emotional stress

How to boost male fertility naturally

Men can naturally boost their fertility (and their testosterone levels) using one or more of the following suggestions.

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Get sufficient sleep. Insufficient sleep has been associated with lower testosterone levels. Young men who got five hours of sleep per night experienced a 10 to 15 percent decline in their T levels. In addition, testosterone levels tend to decline as men age.

Chow down on cruciferous veggies. Vegetables such as broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, radishes, and bok choy fall into the class of cruciferous veggies, and they contain indole-3-carbinol (available in supplements like this one), a precursor to diindolylmethane (DIM). This combination of nutrients control levels of estradiol, a hormone that can cause testosterone levels to drop.

Consider taking supplements. Several natural supplements are supported by scientific proof that they can help boost testosterone levels. They include beta-sitosterol, branched-chain amino acids, fenugreek, green tea, magnesium, vitamin D, and zinc. Here’s one we like.

Lose belly fat. Abdominal fat is where testosterone is transformed into the estrogen known as estradiol. If you have excess belly fat, then your chances of having lower levels of testosterone increases. Banish the belly and watch your T levels and fertility chances rise.

Manage stress. Unmanaged, chronic stress is accompanied by high levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which causes the body to lose DHA (dehydroepiandrosterone), which is needed to make testosterone. Therefore if you have high cortisol, you also have low DHEA and low T.

Enjoy sex more often. Men who engage in frequent sexual activity can boost their testosterone levels. In fact, one study found that men who engaged in sex in a sex club showed a 72 percent increase in T levels. Both masturbation and partnered sex can result in a rise in T levels.

Be social. Social isolation tends to be equated with high cortisol levels, which in turn is associated with poorer T levels. Socializing with family and friends on a regular basis and sharing thoughts and emotions can boost levels of oxytocin, which is associated with feelings of belonging and comfort.

References

Environmental Working Group. Body burden: the pollution of newborns. EWG 2005 Jul 14

Gasnier C et al. Glyphosate-based herbicides are toxic and endocrine disruptors in human cell lines. Toxicology 2009 Aug 21; 262(3): 184-91

Ghosh P. Sperm count drop “could make humans extinct.” BBC News 2017 Jul 27

Kelland K. Sperm count dropping in western world. Scientific American 2017 Jul 26

Levine H et al. Temporal trends in sperm count: a systematic review and meta-regression analysis. Human Reproduction Update 2017 Nov 1; 23(6): 646-59

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