Skip to content

Human male sperm Credit: Wikipedia

Oh no... Back in 2017 a large study found that male sperm counts had dropped over 50% since the 1970s in North America, Europe, and Australia. Declining every year, year after year, for over 40 years. This has serious implications for fertility - if sperm counts drop too low, it's very difficult to conceive a baby.

Now those same researchers have published data from 53 countries showing that the sperm count decline is also occurring in Asia, South America, and Africa. And that the decline in male sperm counts is actually accelerating in North America and Europe. Yikes!

Note that this is in men who weren't being screened for fertility problems issues. In other words, random healthy men. Some had already fathered a baby.

Globally, the decline was about 1.16% per year from 1973 to 2018 (resulting in a 52% decline). When the researchers reexamined the data and looked at many more studies, they realized that since 2000 the decline accelerated at 2.64% per year.

Average global sperm concentration was 49 million per milliliter of semen in 2018. The researcher Dr. Swan pointed out that when sperm count drops below roughly 45 million per milliliter, the ability to cause a pregnancy begins to plummet dramatically, and at 40 million and lower the chances of conception are very low without reproductive assistance (e.g., IVF).

Interestingly, sperm counts are not just a male fertility issue, but also an indicator of men's health. Low levels of sperm are associated with increased risk of chronic disease, testicular cancer, and a shorter lifespan. With a decline in sperm numbers there is also a decline in testosterone and male genital anomalies - thus a decline in male reproductive health.

Why is this happening? Several possibilities are probably contributing: mainly lifestyle and also all the chemicals and plastics in our lives (environmental chemical exposure). Endocrine disruptors, phthalates, pesticides! Yes, they are all around us - in the air, the water, consumer products, and our bodies.

Some examples: pesticides, flame retardants, stain and water resistant products. Plastics leach and outgas and we get them into us various ways (skin, inhale them, ingest them in our foods and water). List of ways to reduce exposure to harmful chemicals.

THINGS YOU CAN DO TO IMPROVE SPERM COUNT AND HEALTH:

Lifestyle: Don't smoke. Don't drink or drink very little. Don't do drugs. Don't sit in hot tubs or saunas. Get exercise or physical activity. Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, seeds, nuts. Avoid canned foods, minimize fast food take-out. Eat as much organic as possible. Lose weight, if needed.

Chemical exposure: We can't totally avoid all the chemicals, but we can minimize our exposure. For starters, stop using non-stick cookware, avoid pesticides in the home and yard (look for nontoxic alternatives and view weeds as wildflowers), don't use dryer sheets, buy unscented products (and avoid fragrances). List of ways to reduce exposure to harmful chemicals.

From Science Daily: Significant decline in sperm counts globally, including Latin America, Asia and Africa, follow-up study shows

An international team led by Professor Hagai Levine of Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Hadassah Braun School of Public Health, with Prof. Shanna Swan at the Icahn School of Medicine, Mount Sinai, New York, along with researchers in Denmark, Brazil, Spain, Israel and the USA, published the first meta-analysis to demonstrate declining sperm counts among men from South and Central America, Asia and Africa. ...continue reading "Sperm Counts Are Still Dropping Throughout the World"

Honey
Credit: USDA

Great news for those who like honey! Even though honey is really sweet (lots of sugars!), eating it actually helps your health. Univ. of Toronto researchers analyzed 18 well done studies and found that honey improved key measures of cardiometabolic health, including blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

These results are interesting because they contrast with other research finding a high intake of sugars (e.g., sugar, high fructose corn syrup, soda) contributing to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Unfortunately, most regulatory agencies, including the World Health Organization, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, and the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration), include honey within their definition of free or added sugars. And advise limiting intake.

However, honey is not like other sugars. Honey has a complex composition of organic acids, minerals, vitamins, enzymes, proteins, amino acids, and bioactive substances. Rare sugars constitute around 14% of the sugar content of honey. Raw honey also contains probiotic bacteria.

All sorts of studies (in vitro, animal, clinical) have shown that honey has health benefits for cardiometabolic health. Among these benefits are improvements in body weight, inflammation, lipid profile, and glycemic control.

What kind is best? The Univ. of Toronto researchers found that the best health results are found with consumption of raw honey, clover honey, and robinia honey. In other words, honey that is not processed (raw honey) or from only 1 floral source (e.g., clover, acacia/robinia).

How much is best? The median dose consumed was 40 g or about 2 tablespoons daily, usually added to foods or beverages as a sweetener (e.g., in tea, mixed with yogurt, spread on bread) . Enjoy!

From Science Daily: Sweet: Honey reduces cardiometabolic risks, study shows

Researchers at the University of Toronto have found that honey improves key measures of cardiometabolic health, including blood sugar and cholesterol levels -- especially if the honey is raw and from a single floral source.  ...continue reading "Study Finds Health Benefits From Eating Honey"

Soda Credit: Wikipedia

All of us should be concerned about harmful health effects from a sedentary lifestyle, along with drinking lots of sugary soda. However, according to a (very) small study, ten days of adopting this lifestyle seems to have more of a negative effect on healthy young men than on women, at least in the short term.

Even just 10 days of reducing physical activity (from greater than 10,000 steps to less than 5000 steps per day) and increasing soda intake (to 6 cans a day!) was enough to have a negative effect on insulin levels (vascular insulin resistance) in healthy young men. But the Univ. of Missouri researchers found no real effect on the young women.

From Medical Xpress: Sedentary lifestyle and sugary diet more detrimental to men, study finds

A new study from the University of Missouri School of Medicine is the first evidence in humans that short-term lifestyle changes can disrupt the response to insulin of blood vessels. It's also the first study to show men and women react differently to these changes. ...continue reading "Ten Days of Unhealthy Lifestyle Has Greater Effect on Young Men than Women"

Eating nuts is good for your health. A study conducted in the UK found that eating either a handful (56 grams) of whole or ground almonds every day for 4 weeks significantly increased the production of butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid that promotes gut health.

The study participants were persons eating a typical Western diet - low in fiber (less than the recommended amount), and with daily unhealthy snacks (chips, crisps, candy). The control group ate a muffin instead of almonds, and showed no improvements over the 4 weeks of the study. None of the 3 groups had significant changes at the microbiome level, which wasn't surprising because the rest of their diets stayed the same.

In other words, in a person who normally eats a typical Western diet - eating an additional handful of nuts daily helps with butyrate production (good!) and provides extra nutrients. But it's not enough of a dietary change to have a significant effect on the microbiome. For gut microbiome improvement need to add some fermented foods and more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds, legumes, and nuts.

From Science Daily: Snacking on almonds boosts gut health, study finds

Eating a handful of almonds a day significantly increases the production of butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid that promotes gut health. ...continue reading "Almonds Are Good For You"

Many of us do not get enough sleep at night. Unfortunately, this is bad for our health. Another large study just confirmed this - they found that consistently getting 5 or fewer hours per night during mid-life or later in life is linked to developing several diseases.

Sleeping 9 or more hours at 60 or 70 years of age (but not at age 50) was also associated with developing multiple chronic diseases. No association was found between sleep duration and early death among those with existing chronic diseases.

The study, conducted in the UK, looked at sleep amounts in more than 7000 persons over a 25 year span (when they were 50, 60, and 70 year old). Persons with short sleep duration (5 or fewer hours) had a higher risk of developing not just one chronic disease, but multiple chronic diseases.

The possible chronic diseases were: diabetes, cancer, coronary heart disease, stroke, heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), chronic kidney disease, chronic liver disease, depression, dementia, mental disorders, Parkinson's disease, arthritis/rheumatoid arthritis.

From Science Daily: Five hours' sleep a night linked to higher risk of multiple diseases

Getting less than five hours of sleep in mid-to-late life could be linked to an increased risk of developing at least two chronic diseases, finds a new study led by UCL researchers. ...continue reading "Sleeping Less Than Five Hours A Night Ups the Risk For Health Problems"

Male sperm Credit: Wikipedia

Currently there is incredible concern over what the group of toxic chemicals called PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are doing to humans. PFAS are commonly known as "forever chemicals" because of their persistence in our bodies and environment. They are all around us (e.g., in personal care products, cosmetics, food packaging, nonstick cookware, textiles, carpets), and as a consequence almost all of us have them in our bodies.

Why be concerned over PFAS chemicals? They are endocrine (hormone) disruptors and have numerous harmful health effects, including all sorts of reproductive effects (e.g., decreases in sperm numbers, increased rates of infertility), decreases in testosterone, increased risk of cancer, and immune effects. Studies also find that they cross the placenta and accumulate in the fetus.

Now another worrisome large study (864 young men, 18.9 to 21.2 years old) has been published. Danish researchers found that those men who had been exposed to higher levels of PFAS during pregnancy had lower levels of sperm (both sperm concentration and sperm count), and a higher proportion of not swimming correctly and nonmoving sperm in the adult sons. This means that prenatal exposure has an effect on both quantity and quality of sperm in adulthood.

The PFAS levels were first measured during pregnancy (in the mother's plasma) during the first trimester, when the male reproductive system is developing. Sperm counts have been dropping rapidly in the past 40 years throughout the developed world, and these chemicals may be one of the reasons.

Bottom line: We can't totally avoid these chemicals, but the good news is that we can lower by a lot how much we are exposed to. And your levels can go down within weeks.

PFAS are commonly used because they have water, dirt, stain, and oil repellent properties. For example, they are used in water-resistant and long-lasting cosmetics, and in rugs and upholstery with added stain-resistance. This means that there are many simple ways to lower your exposure, mainly by some lifestyle changes (e.g., by using regular stainless steel pots and not non-stick pots).

A good list of ways to lower your exposure to PFAS and other harmful chemicals, especially if you are pregnant or thinking of pregnancy, or have children. Can also go to ewg.org for lists of personal care products that are PFAS and toxin free.

Nice, short article from The Guardian: Study links in utero ‘forever chemical’ exposure to low sperm count and mobility

A new peer-reviewed Danish study finds that a mother’s exposure to toxic PFAS “forever chemicals” during early pregnancy can lead to lower sperm count and quality later in her child’s life.  ...continue reading "Study Finds “Forever Chemical” Exposure Early in Life Has Effects On Sperm In Adulthood"

For a while now it has been known that some dental floss, such as Oral-B Glide, contain harmful chemical compounds called PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), similar to Teflon. These chemicals have all sorts of negative health effects, and are referred to as "forever chemicals" because they stick around.

A recent investigation by ehn.org (Environmental Health News) and Mamavation (a health/wellness site) tested 39 different brands of dental floss for PFAS by an EPA-certified laboratory. They found evidence of PFAS in one third of the samples, with levels ranging from 11 parts per million (ppm) to 248,900 ppm. Yup, it was Oral-B Glide with the incredibly high levels of PFAS.

These PFAS chemical compounds are linked to all sorts of health problems (e.g. kidney and testicular cancer, semen quality, thyroid disease, immune system effects, reproductive problems, and lowered sex and growth hormones in children) - so you want to avoid them if possible.

It turns out these chemicals are shed into the person's mouth when flossing if the floss contains PFAS, and can be measured in a person's blood.

The four floss brands with extremely high levels (over 70,000 ppm) were: Oral B Glide, Up & Up (Target brand) Smooth Slide Floss, Colgate Total Waxed Dental Floss, and Solimo (Amazon brand) Extra Comfort Dental Floss.

One piece of good news: No dental (tooth) floss marketed to children that they tested had indications of PFAS forever chemicals.

Bottom line: avoid non-stick smooth dental floss such as Oral-B Glide dental floss (or when the dental floss label brags that it is similar to Glide dental floss). Use plain waxed or unwaxed floss instead (e.g., Reach Waxed Floss, Tom's of Maine Floss). Look at the investigation results for brands to avoid and better choices.

From Environmental Health News (EHN.org): Tests find PFAS abundant ​in some dental floss

That nice waxy glide as you floss your teeth? Turns out it could be courtesy of PFAS, the "forever chemicals" that hijacks hormones and is linked to reproductive problems, birth defects, testicular cancer and a host of other diseases. 
...continue reading "Some Dental Floss Brands Contain Harmful PFAS Chemicals"

It seems that every so often another study finds that daily coffee consumption is healthy for a person. A recent large study found that daily drinking of 2 to 3 cups coffee is associated with a lower risk of early death (from any cause) and lower risk of cardiovascular  disease, when compared to non-coffee drinkers.

The University of Melbourne researchers also found that drinking ground and instant coffee, but not decaffeinated coffee, was associated with a reduction in arrhythmias including atrial fibrillation. In this study cardiovascular disease included heart disease, congestive heart failure, and ischemic stroke.

More good news - it applied to all types of coffee (ground, decaffeinated, and instant). However, when looking at the study results, ground coffee appears to be more beneficial than decaf or instant coffee. Two to three cups of coffee per day appeared to be the most beneficial.

The researchers point out that coffee contains more than 100 biologically active components, which are contributing to its health effects.[Other coffee studies] They also said that mild to moderate coffee consumption should be considered part of a heart healthy lifestyle. Great news!

From Science Daily: Coffee drinking is associated with increased longevity

Drinking two to three cups of coffee a day is linked with a longer lifespan and lower risk of cardiovascular disease compared with avoiding coffee, according to research published today in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, a journal of the ESC.1 The findings applied to ground, instant and decaffeinated varieties. ...continue reading "Coffee Drinking Linked to Longer Life and Lower Risk of Heart Disease"

It has been known for years that wearing your shoes indoors means that everything that is on the ground outdoors will be tracked into the home. Pesticides, heavy metals, lead, animal feces, and everything else out there.

Babies crawling around the floor (and also putting things into the mouth) get an extra heavy dose of "contaminants" that were tracked in. We all absorb contaminants through our skin, ingest (the mouth), or breathe them in.

All these contaminants become part of our indoor air quality. Our indoor air is not just the outside contaminants that made their way in, but there is also shedding of skin and cloth fibers from us and pets, as well as outgassing and breakdown (the dust) of whatever is in the home. We can't get rid of all contaminants, but we can really lower our exposure to them by not wearing our shoes indoors.

Bottom line: Take your shoes off at the door.

A nice discussion of this issue is in an article written by Professors M.P. Taylor and G. Filippelli earlier this year. Some excerpts from The Conversation: Wearing shoes in the house is just plain gross. The verdict from scientists who study indoor contaminants

You probably clean your shoes if you step in something muddy or disgusting (please pick up after your dog!). But when you get home, do you always de-shoe at the door?  ...continue reading "Leave Your Shoes At The Door"

Another recent study found that consuming artificial sweeteners do harm. In August a study found that artificial sweeteners alter both the oral and gut microbiomes in a negative way. Other earlier studies found an association with high blood pressure, inflammation, weight gain, vascular dysfunction, and increased risk of cancer.

Now, a large study found that high consumption of artificial sweeteners is associated with increased risk of heart disease (cardiovascular disease), including heart attacks and strokes (cerebrovascular events).

What is high consumption of artificial sweetener? One individual packet of artificial sweetener or a 100 mL of diet soda is about 42.46 mg/day, while in this study high sweetener consumption is about 77.62 mg/day. So high consumption is not even 2 diet sodas or packets per day.

Bottom line: Artificial sweeteners are NOT a healthy or good alternative to sugar (or maple syrup or honey). Also, avoid high fructose corn syrup - that has its own problems. Artificial sweeteners are found in highly processed foods - try to also avoid those for your health.

Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death worldwide. Avoiding sugar and instead consuming artificial sweeteners is not going to help you achieve health. But improving your overall diet will, such as eating a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, legumes (beans).

From Medical Xpress: Study suggests possible link between artificial sweeteners and heart disease

A large study of French adults published by The BMJ today suggests a potential direct association between higher artificial sweetener consumption and increased cardiovascular disease risk, including heart attack and stroke. ...continue reading "Health Harms Associated With Artificial Sweeteners"