New research suggests that sperm counts are declining among men in North America, Europe, and Australia. Worse, it also appears that sperm quality has seen better days among Western men, with both metrics declining drastically since the 1970s.
According to a report from USA Today, the new study suggests that for men in the Western world, sperm count declined by close to 60 percent as of 2011, as compared to figures from 1973. This was based on data from 185 previous studies profiling close to 43,000 men in North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, with the subjects getting sperm counts because of infertility, or due to other medical problems. As USA Today noted, this could potentially skew the results of the recent study, as the studies didn’t include perfectly healthy men.
Nonetheless, some experts feel that this is quite an alarming statistic, not just because it suggests a lack of fertility, but also a decline in health for Western men. Sperm count declines have previously been associated with a higher risk of specific cancers, heart disease, diabetes, and even a shorter life expectancy.
Speaking to USA Today, University of Southern Denmark professor Tina Kold Jensen said that she was “really scared” by the new paper’s findings, and while she had conducted a study 20 years ago that made a similar conclusion, she had also assumed that sperm counts wouldn’t decline, but rather recover.
“I was actually surprised by the findings. I didn’t think it would go on like that,” said Jensen, who was not involved in the study.
— Daily Mirror (@DailyMirror) July 25, 2017
There are many reasons why sperm counts among Western men declined by about 1.6 percent a year between 1973 and 2011, good for a total decline of 59.3 percent over those 38 years. Experts have suggested higher obesity rates, sedentary lifestyles, and high-stress life events, such as moving, changing jobs, or getting a divorce, as factors that may contribute to sperm counts declining. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals, which are found in canned goods, cosmetics, and other products, may also play a role, as could chemicals sprayed on foods and vegetables.
Aside from the almost-60 percent decline in sperm count, the research also found a 52.4 percent decrease in sperm concentration over the same timeframe. This measure of sperm quality had an especially pronounced decline among fertile men, the researchers added.
While BBC News wrote that there are some experts who are skeptical of the new research, the study’s lead author nonetheless had a very dire warning about the ramifications of the drastic sperm count decline over the past four decades or so. Dr. Hagai Levine, an epidemiologist at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University-Hadassah Braun School of Public Health, said that the study could point to the extinction of humanity multiple generations down the line, and that things need to be done about the foods we eat, the lifestyles we live, and how we take care of the environment.
“If we will not change the ways that we are living and the environment and the chemicals that we are exposed to, I am very worried about what will happen in the future. Eventually we may have a problem, and with reproduction in general, and it may be the extinction of the human species.”
— Access Fertility (@AccessFertility) May 30, 2017
Although the study’s findings may be alarming in one way or another, there are things that men could do to prevent their sperm count from declining. According to USA Today, regular exercise and reducing weight are two important tools that men can utilize to guard against a low sperm count. It’s also advised that men eat more organic fruits and vegetables and less canned foods, regularly keep their windows open, and refrain from microwaving foods in plastic containers.
[Featured Image by Sebastian Kaulitzki/Shutterstock]