Alarm as ‘stress’ sees av­er­age sperm count drop by 60%

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - – Daily Mail

MOD­ERN life is feared to be dam­ag­ing men’s fer­til­ity af­ter a study found the av­er­age sperm count has fallen al­most 60% in a gen­er­a­tion.

Sci­en­tists said the de­cline in sperm qual­ity should be a “wake-up call” and warned that, cou­pled with women in­creas­ingly hav­ing chil­dren later, it pro­vides a “dou­ble whammy” of fer­til­ity prob­lems for cou­ples try­ing for a baby.

The de­cline in male fer­til­ity was only seen in Western coun­tries, sug­gest­ing life­style and en­vi­ron­men­tal fac­tors are to blame. Obe­sity, stress, pes­ti­cides and chem­i­cals found in our homes are all thought to ham­per sperm pro­duc­tion.

A re­view of 185 stud­ies found the av­er­age sperm count of a man from Europe, North Amer­ica, Aus­tralia and New Zealand has fallen by 59.3% be­tween 1973 and 2011, with a steeper de­cline since 1995.

But no sig­nif­i­cant de­cline was seen in men from South Amer­ica, Asia and Africa, al­though there were fewer stud­ies in these ar­eas.

Dr Ha­gai Levine, of the He­brew Univer­sity of Jerusalem, who led the re­search, said: “Given the im­por­tance of sperm counts for male fer­til­ity and health, this study is a wake-up call for re­searchers and health au­thor­i­ties to in­ves­ti­gate the causes of the sharp on­go­ing drop in sperm count, with the goal of pre­ven­tion.”

Co-au­thor Pro­fes­sor Shanna Swan, from the Ic­ahn School of Medicine in New York, said: “The fact that the de­cline is seen in Western coun­tries strongly sug­gests that chem­i­cals in com­merce are play­ing a causal role in this trend.”

Many plas­tics con­tain chem­i­cals thought to block en­zymes that are im­por­tant for testos­terone pro­duc­tion, such as bisphe­nol A, which is found in baby bot­tles, plas­tic plates and the lin­ings of food and drink cans.

Re­spond­ing to the find­ings, which were pub­lished in the jour­nal Hu­man Re­pro­duc­tion Up­date, Pro­fes­sor Richard Sharpe, from the MRC Cen­tre for Re­pro­duc­tive Health at Ed­in­burgh Univer­sity, said: “Across North­ern Europe to­day, more than 15% of young men have a sperm count low enough to im­pair their fer­til­ity and, as the study in­di­cates, this is likely to get worse.

“What is not widely ap­pre­ci­ated is the co­in­ci­dence of this change in men with de­lay in cou­ples try­ing for a baby un­til the fe­male part­ner is in her 30s, when her fer­til­ity is de­clin­ing, cre­ates a dou­ble whammy.”

Obe­sity may re­duce sperm pro­duc­tion or al­ter the struc­ture of sperm.

Ex­po­sure to pes­ti­cides as adults is also thought to af­fect how en­zymes work in the body.

Stress hor­mones (glu­co­cor­ti­coids) may trig­ger re­cep­tors in the testes, lead­ing to less sperm be­ing made.

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