- Male sperm counts are declining worldwide among humans and other animals.
- Likely causes include diet, obesity, and environmental pollutants, including a class of chemicals called endocrine disruptors.
- Many researchers believe that the decline is causing male infertility and increased risk of testicular cancer, though more research is needed on both.
- There are steps men can take to reduce their risk.
Did you know that sperm counts for men have dropped significantly in the last fifty years?
In 2017, scientists published the results of a large meta-analysis that reviewed more than two thousand studies on men’s sperm count since 1981. In this way, the researchers could get a “big-picture” view of all the research that had taken place in the field. The combined studies covered 42,935 men across the world who had provided semen samples in the years between 1973 and 2011.
What this study found was a significant decrease in sperm count in all men across the world. While the decline was seen in regions such as Africa and Asia, the most notable drops in sperm count were found in regions such as North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. In these areas, the amount of sperm per milliliter of semen had dropped 52.4 percent over the covered time period.
Why Does Sperm Quality Matter?
For an individual man who no longer desires fertility, sperm quality may not seem important. However, it is critically important to the future of the human species.
In order for new humans to be born, men must produce viable, mobile, and healthy sperm in their testicles, and women must produce viable eggs in their ovaries. Thus, in order for couples and families to have children, men’s testicular health — including sperm count, sperm quality, and sperm motility (or mobility) — is crucially important.
The worldwide fertility decline is resulting in many Western nations, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and other European nations, moving below “population replacement” levels.
In these nations, couples are not having enough children to keep the population steady, and populations are declining. This fact will, in the near future, begin to place social and financial pressures on these societies as populations skew older.
What Is Causing Declining Sperm Quantity and Quality?
A 2020 review study suggests several causes for the decline, including diet, obesity, environmental pollutants, and chemicals known as endocrine disrupters.
What are Endocrine Disrupters?
Endocrine disrupters are chemicals that interfere with hormone production in the bodies of both males and females. These changes can damage sperm in men and ova (eggs) in females, which researchers believe can contribute to infertility.
People are exposed to endocrine disrupters from the food and water they consume. Plastics, pesticides, and some metals are examples of known endocrine disrupters.
Dr. Skakkebaek and his research partners suggest some links between the testicular problems of cancer, sperm malformation, and low sperm count and the presence of endocrine-disrupting chemicals. While not fully conclusive, this study reinforces the idea that men should limit their exposure to pesticides, flame retardant chemicals, soy-based products, and chemicals such as phthalate in plastics.
Can Declining Sperm Count and Testicular Health Cause Cancer?
Of concern to all men is current suspicions of a link between declining sperm count and testicular cancer. The connection has not yet been fully proven, but we do know that men with higher sperm counts (and fewer reproductive issues) also have lower rates of testicular cancer.
Men in Africa, for example, have both significantly lower rates of low sperm and, according to Dr. Niels Skakkebaek in an interview with the New York Times, “significantly lower rates of another testicular problem: testicular cancer.”
More Research Is Needed
While the reality of declining sperm counts and lower fertility across the world is clear, the causes of this phenomenon and the solutions to it still require investigation. As Dr. Neils Skakkebaek notes, “We urgently need international research collaboration to detect the causes” of declining testicular health.
In the meantime, the best advice for men is to follow the steps listed above to maintain their best overall and testicular health.
How Can Men Protect Their Testicular Health?
As the Mayo Clinic suggests, there are significant steps that all men can take to help protect their overall testicular health and their ability to produce healthy sperm.
In addition to avoiding exposure to endocrine disruptors as much as possible, Mayo outlines actions that men SHOULD take as well as things they should STOP doing.
To protect your reproductive health, DO:
- Eat a healthy diet: Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables that are high in antioxidants can help the health of your sperm.
- Maintain a healthy weight: When your BMI (body mass index) goes up, your sperm count goes down, and the vitality of your sperm decreases. eDrugstore can help men wanting to lose weight. Check out eDrugstore.com’s resources for weight loss.
- Protect yourself from STDs: Sexually transmitted infections like chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause infertility in men.
- Manage your stress: Stress can decrease all elements of men’s sexual function and can interfere with the hormones that your body needs to produce sperm.
- Exercise more: Engaging in moderate physical activity increases the levels of antioxidant enzymes, which help protect sperm.
- Talk to your doctor: Some medications, such as calcium channel blockers, tricyclic antidepressants, and anti-androgens, can contribute to fertility issues.
- Reduce your exposure to toxins: Pesticides, lead, and other toxins can affect sperm quantity and quality. If you are going to be around these toxins, wear protective equipment.
- Stay cool: When the temperature in your scrotum increases, sperm production slows down. Keeping your testicles cool prevents this from happening.
To protect your testicles, DON’T:
- Smoke: Men who smoke have lower sperm counts.
- Drink alcohol: Heavy drinking can lead to reduced testosterone production, erectile dysfunction, and decreased sperm production.
- Use lubricants during sex: Early research indicates that lubricants can have a negative effect on fertility.
- Take anabolic steroids: Using steroids for muscle building can contribute to fertility issues.
- Make frequent use of saunas or hot tubs: Keep your crotch cool and do not use your laptop computer in your lap.
How eDrugstore Can Help
For more information about topics related to diet, sexual health, and sexual function, visit the eDrugstore.com blog.
We also have resources available to help with smoking cessation and weight loss. Take advantage of a complimentary medical consultation with a licensed U.S.-based physician to talk about products and pharmaceuticals that might be right for you.
We can also help improve your sexual function with products to treat erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, and other sexual health issues related to your reproductive health and overall wellbeing. Call 1-800-467-5146 to set up your confidential consultation and take charge of your sexual health.
Elizabeth Nichols is an experienced and flexible author with extensive experience in both popular media and academic publishing. She specializes in health, medical and travel writing.