Sperm count is kind of a big deal right now in the United States. According to a recent and terrifying study published in the journal Human Reproduction Update, sperm counts in the United States, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand are all plummeting.
And by plummeting, we mean plummeting. Sperm counts have decreased on average by over 50 percent.
The average cost of in vitro fertilization in the U.S. is currently about $11,000 to $12,000, and the prevalence of these procedures is equally concerning. More women are using in vitro methods of fertilization to get pregnant than ever before; this could in part be due to the high mortality rate of sperm making fertilization less likely through more natural methods.
There are many hypotheses out there about what men could do better to preserve their sperm. They range from reasonable to ridiculous — drinking Mountain Dew, for example, has no proven effect on your sperm at all. However, some sperm-massacring habits that at first sound ridiculous are not to be messed with.
There are more reasons than just your sperm that you should be wary on this front — at any given time, 110 million Americans are infected with sexually transmitted disease or infection. Protect yourself and your partner and just use protection, especially if you’re planning on procreating at some point. Some sexually transmitted infections, such as gonorrhea, can cause permanent testicular damage.
Alcohol abuse, or even just heavy drinking, can result in an altered testosterone level. Not only is this likely to cause some undesirable visible side effects, but it also lowers your sperm count significantly. Alcohol usage releases toxins into the body immediately and impairs your liver’s ability to filter toxins in the future. All those toxins can do some very real damage to your sperm.
It’s true for most drugs, but contrary to popular belief, even marijuana can affect your reproductive health. You may want to pass on the marijuana-infused pizza, no matter how amazing it sounds. According to one study, smoking marijuana once a week or more resulted in a sperm count that plummeted by a third. Don’t let your swimmers take that kind of a hit — just lay off the drugs.
Carbon monoxide, a gas that’s inhaled when you smoke anything (but especially cigarettes), is a toxin that damages sperm. Smoking has also been shown to damage blood vessels throughout the body — and blood vessels are kind of crucial for sperm release. If the lung health and cancer risks haven’t convinced you already, quit for the sake of your sperm.
This urban legend is actually true. Warmth of any kind is bound to do some damage — your sperm are located outside your body for a reason. They need to stay a bit chilled. And while it’s unlikely that living in Florida has any real effect on your sperm’s temperature control, a hot tub is enough of an extreme change in thermostat to risk it.
Many workout supplements, including the seemingly innocuous BCAAs, don’t have approval from the Food and Drug Administration. A few of them can even mess with your hormones — including testosterone.
Turns out, there might be some evolutionary justification for men spreading their legs on public transportation. The heat generated when your legs are placed closely together can be too much for sperm over a long period of time.
So men who sit at a desk all day or drive a truck for a living can suffer some significant sperm damage. In fact, studies have even correlated watching TV all day with infertility risk. Get out there and get active, if only so that your sperm get active, too.
The exact reason remains a mystery, but men who eat more processed meats (such as hot dogs, lunch meat, and pepperoni) tend to have a lower sperm count. Some hypothesize that this has to do with an associated variable — body weight. Men who are of a higher weight may just be more prone to excess consumption of processed meat, and being overweight is known to adversely affect sperm count.
If you’re piling on the tofu, it’s time to quit: According to a study published in the Oxford Journal, men who consumed half a serving of soy-based foods (like tofu) each day had 41 million fewer sperm per milliliter than men who didn’t consume soy foods at all. Apparently, the effect of soy on the body is similar to estrogen. Who knew?
The whole “you’re having too much sex to have any sperm left” thing is a myth — the opposite might actually be true. According to one study, men who ejaculated every day for a week had higher-quality sperm than men who didn't ejaculate. The more you let the little guys loose, the more frequently they replenish — and the higher quality they’ll be when they’re released.
Obesity can impair sperm in a few different ways, including the resulting hormonal changes and other health complications. While an increase in weight doesn’t actually have a proven causation with negative health outcomes, it does have a correlation with sperm death according to a study conducted at the Harvard School of Public Health.
As it turns out, keeping things breezy is more comfortable for a reason. Skinny jeans do actually have an effect on fertility. This factor, combined with the negative effect of drug and alcohol usage on sperm count, is not a good sign for the parenting prospects of punk rockers.
Tight pants and briefs cause testicles to hug closer to the skin, resulting in a toastier temperature. The warmer they get, the more likely the sperm are to die from overheating.
Body fat is an important tool for the human body to maintain its good health. Being underweight results in sperm having less motility and can leave you with 8.6 percent less semen volume. If you’re cutting body fat, you could also unknowingly be cutting sperm count.
Laptops generate heat — heat that you don’t want lingering around your sperm. Additionally, Wi-Fi connections are rumored to have some negative effects, though nothing has been definitively proven. Still, aren’t you better safe than sorry? Use a desk while you’re on your laptop to keep your sperm as safe as possible.
Even sunscreen isn’t safe anymore — unless you stick to the natural stuff. Did you know that chemicals you rub on your skin are absorbed into your bloodstream? While men don’t always have the problem women do when it comes to makeup, they do have to be mindful of their sunscreen usage. According to one report, chemicals found in sunscreen can reduce sperm count by up to a third.
There is such thing as too much exercise — it really stresses out your body. Extreme, long distance cardio releases the stress hormone cortisol, which is a detriment to your sperm. In one study, long-distance bikers were shown to have only four percent of the normal amount of sperm. In another, biking for over five hours per week was correlated with lower sperm count.
According to a report released by the University of California, Berkeley, eight out of nine studies that investigated cell phones’ effect on sperm found an unpromising result — especially when phones are kept in men’s pockets.
Vitamin C is important for a whole slew of reasons, sperm count included. Sperm production requires vitamin C, so if you’re skimping on eating your vegetables, you could be skimping out on your chances of fertility. Eat a nutritious, colorful diet to avoid this side effect. Not sure where to start? Try eating healthy foods that contain the nutrients you need. According to science, every man should be eating these foods more often.
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