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Why Have Western Sperm Counts Dropped 60 Percent in 40 Years?

People often speculate about how modern technology will affect our health. Well according to a new study, there's one area where human's are seeing some serious damage: Sperm counts.

A recent report in the Human Reproduction Update journal found that sperm counts have dropped by close to 60 percent in the West. According to their data, sperm counts are down 59.3 percent in Israel, Denmark, Brazil, Spain and the United States, and 52.4 percent in Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand from 1971 to 2011. These sperm count drops were not seen in other parts of the world (South America, Africa and Asia), although there are fewer studies in those regions so that may explain why.

The reason behind the sperm count is less known. Scientists have speculated that pesticides, exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals, poor diet, stress, smoking and obesity could all be contributing factors. 

“Sperm count and other semen parameters have been plausibly associated with multiple environmental influences, including endocrine disrupting chemicals, pesticides, heat and lifestyle factors, including diet, stress, smoking and body-mass index,” the paper said. 

Chemicals used to make plastics more flexible and flame retardant have previously been linked to lower sperm count. Meanwhile a diet high in alcohol, caffeine, processed meat, soy and potatoes are believed to have a negative effect on male fertility. The fact that these lowered sperm counts were seen only in the West, which is more industrialized, is part of the reason why scientists believe chemicals are most likely a contributing factor.

The bigger issue, according to the paper, is that lowered sperm count is also associated with mortality. So the lower sperm counts may indicate environmental elements are a greater threat to men's health and increased mortality rate.

So not only are sperm counts dropping, but men are also more likely to die and scientists don't really know why. Not great news.


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