I stopped drinking Mountain Dew for years after being ‘informed’ that the light-green soft drink lowers sperm count in men. To this day, I still believe that Mountain Dew is indeed ‘The Sperm Killer,’ but is this claim scientifically true? This issue derived from a 1999 report from Wall Street Journal that discussed the effects of Mountain Dew on various states in the U.S. There have not been consistent studies or actual confirmations to bolster the belief that Mountain Dew has effects on sperm count. In fact, there have been a various amount of misconceptions.
The main reason why people believe Mountain Dew reduces sperm is based on the ingredients of the soft drink. A bottle of Mountain Dew, typically, has 290 calories, with 91 milligrams of caffeine. Like other soft drinks, this one has a lot of sugar and calories. However, the particular ingredient that has concerned people is tartrazine, also known as the mighty ‘Yellow Dye No. 5,’ which contributes the neon color of the soft drink. In the mid-1990s, there were many claims that drinking Yellow Dye No. 5 in Mountain Dew affected masculinity, specifically shrinking testicles.
Cap of Mountain Dew, showing ingredient Yellow Dye No. 5
While this claim was devoid of scientific proof, a study involving mice from different countries connected consumption of tartrazine with a lack of sperm. However, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), have implied that there is evidence proving that Yellow Dye No. 5 has opposite side effects, like increasing sperm cells. Also, the soft-drink’s corporation, PepsiCo, have also dismissed these claims and revealed no complaints of sperm reduction.
Conclusion? Mountain Dew is not a SPERM KILLER! It’s just a claim with a lack of evidence and history. While these claims have caused havoc, it’s obvious people will still drink Mountain Dew because of its popularity. Mountain Dew is one of best-selling drinks. Grant, it is best to be aware of what ingredients are in certain soft-drinks. Yes, soft drinks are definitely not as healthy as a bottle of water. There have been no specific claims to prove that Mountain Dew is dangerous for men.
- Investigating the Middle School Rumor that Mountain Dew Lowers Your Sperm Count
- Cola and unhealthy lifestyle lower sperm count
- Mountain Dew does not kill sperm
- <em>Avoid or Ignore:</em> Boxers vs. Briefs
- <em>Avoid or Ignore:</em> Laptops
- <em>Avoid or Ignore:</em> Jacuzzis
- <em>Avoid or Ignore:</em> Obesity
- <em>Avoid or Ignore:</em> Steroids
- <em>Avoid or Ignore:</em> Smoking
- <em>Avoid or Ignore:</em> Narcotics (e.g. Marijuana, Cocaine, Painkillers)
- <em>Take or Ignore:</em> Vitamins and Minerals
- <em>Avoid or Ignore:</em> Red Meat
- <em>Avoid or Ignore:</em> Emotional Stress
- <em>Avoid or Ignore:</em> Aging
- Caffeine’s Effects on Fertility
- Caffeine and Infertility in Women
- Caffeine and Lower Sperm Count
- Don’t make the mistake of letting a diet kill sperm
- Organs like the heart, stomach, intestine, liver and kidney from pigs are rich in cadmium, which is a particularly harmful to sperm, especially smokers.
- “ all kinds of fruits and nuts, such as almond, walnuts, lentils and pumpkin seeds and flaxseeds.”
- Is Caffeine Linked to Male Infertility?
- Heavy drinkers
- Binding blocker
Investigating the Middle School Rumor that Mountain Dew Lowers Your Sperm Count
The year was 1999 and teenage boys were under a spell cast by Mountain Dew. Rumors flew that one of the very popular soda’s synthetic food dyes decreased sperm count; as a result, some sexually-active teens began binge-drinking the alleged spermicide as their only form of birth control. That year, the rumor gained so much traction that the Wall Street Journal published an article chronicling susceptible teens’ belief in it.
According to the urban legend, the soda lowers sperm count and thus works as pre-coital contraception because of the soda’s dye, Yellow No. 5, also known as tartrazine. The US Food and Drug Administration approved the dye in 1969, and soda producers have included the dye in Surge, Fanta Pineapple, and Gatorade, among others. (Pepsi Cola produces both Gatorade and Mountain Dew; they did not return Broadly’s request for comment.) Despite the ubiquity of Yellow No. 5 in orange-hued beverages, it was Mountain Dew that reigned supreme as the contraceptive of choice for teens—despite the complete lack of evidence regarding its efficacy. Nearly two decades later, many millennials still wonder: Did Mountain Dew really lower sperm count, or were teen boys just attempting to use the baseless rumor to their advantage?
Read more: Why the Belly Button Ring Is Set for a Comeback
Scientists at the University of Oran, Algeria conducted an experiment on the impact of tartrazine on mice’s sperm count in 2009. The study found that sperm count decreased and sperm abnormalities increased in the group of mice that drank excessive amounts of tartrazine. However, scientists have yet to carry out the experiment on human subjects, and there are no known reported cases of reduced sperm count after drinking Mountain Dew. Additionally, when the European Food Safety Authority reevaluated the effects of Yellow No. 5 in 2009, they found that “there were no indications of -related adverse effects on reproduction or development.” Scientists regard the dye as safe for human consumption, and it has since remained in Mountain Dew.
Experts and volunteers have also tried to debunk the myth on a larger scale. In 2000, longtime Planned Parenthood volunteer Marjorie Saltzman asked Dear Abby to address the claims in a letter. “Let me go on record as stating that Mountain Dew—although a refreshing and enjoyable beverage—is NOT A CONTRACEPTIVE,” Abigail Van Buren wrote in response. “It may give the drinker a ‘buzz’ because of its sugar and caffeine content, but it will do NOTHING to lower the sperm count.”
Sean Prichard, a Mountain Dew expert and former director of communications at the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals (ARHP), says that the rumor may have encouraged unsafe sex among young straight men and women. “I think my colleagues, like me, thought the whole thing was hilarious and weird, but also we all saw the opportunity to teach about birth control that actually worked,” Prichard tells Broadly. “There is a pretty low percentage that any given sex act will result in a pregnancy, so when a couple that Mountain Dew is actually working in preventing conception, in reality, it’s just statistics.”
It’s impossible to know how many births resulted from chugging the so-called “rocket-fuel” before sex, but teens definitely fell for the rumor. Karissa Johnson, who attended high school during the height of the Mountain Dew myth, says that at least one girl in her hometown of Huntington, West Virginia, got pregnant after trying to use the soda as contraception. “There was this couple in high school—the first to have a baby—who swore for a year that because of his Mountain Dew intake, they had nothing to worry about,” she says. “And it wasn’t just them , either.”
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Johnson’s account mirrors the air of naiveté recorded years earlier. In 1999, Kristen Hayes told the Wall Street Journal that classmates were serving each other six packs of Mountain Dew before intercourse. The pervasiveness of the Mountain Dew urban legend, and its resulting impact on teens’ sexual behavior, could speak to a lack in access to birth control or accurate information on sexual health and human biology in the American education system: In 2008, lawmakers in Florida pushed for a more comprehensive approach for sex education following a survey that indicated teens believed drinking a shot of Mountain Dew would prevent pregnancy.
“If you’re healthy, you’re making millions of sperm per month, and hundreds of billions over the course of your life. Not having enough sperm is really going to be the least of your problems,” Prichard says. “My guess is when people don’t want to use protection, they’ll say anything and they’ll believe anything.”
Cola and unhealthy lifestyle lower sperm count
(PhysOrg.com) — A Danish study suggests drinking a lot of cola regularly could men’s lower sperm count by almost 30 percent. The culprit does not appear to be caffeine, since coffee did not have the same effect, even though it contains even more caffeine than cola.
Leader of the research team, Professor Tina Kold Jensen of the University Department of Growth and Reproduction at the Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen, said the results of previous studies on the effect of caffeine on male fertility had been unclear, and the study participants had usually been carefully selected, often because they were infertile or about to undergo vasectomy. The current study included 2,554 young men and aimed to find out how the increasing consumption of soft drinks containing caffeine by young people in Denmark might affect male reproductive health.
The participants were recruited in the period 2001 to 2005 when they were having their compulsory physical examination to determine if they were fit for military service. They were asked to complete a questionnaire about lifestyle and diet, including information on their intake of caffeine from various sources including cola, and they also delivered a semen sample.
The results were that those with low to moderate total caffeine intake and cola consumption (up to 800 mg/day caffeine and up to 14 x 0.5 liter bottles of cola per week) showed no link with semen quality in terms of sperm concentration and sperm count, while those with high intake of total caffeine and/or cola (over 800 mg/day and more than 14 x 0.5 liter bottles/week) had reduced sperm count and concentration, but this was only significant for the cola intake. Those with low to moderate consumption (the vast majority) had higher sperm counts (average 56 million/ml) than those who drank cola. In the 93 men who drank a liter (a quart) or more a day the sperm counts were much lower (35 million/ml). Even the lower count is within the World Health Organisation’s reported normal limits, but a reduced sperm count increases the risk of eventually becoming infertile.
The study found no link between caffeine in tea or coffee and the lowered sperm count, which meant the effect may be produced by other ingredients in the soft drinks, or other factors related to lifestyle, but the authors said they could not “exclude the possibility of a threshold above which cola, and possibly caffeine, negatively affects semen quality”. The researchers also found that those who drank cola had unhealthier lifestyles, ate less fruit and vegetables, and more fast foods than those who did not. It is therefore unclear if one or more of the cola’s ingredients, the unhealthy lifestyle, poor diet or a combination of these factors is responsible for the reduced sperm quality.
The study findings are published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
Cola may contribute to osteoporosis More information: Tina Kold Jensen et al., Caffeine Intake and Semen Quality in a Population of 2,554 Young Danish Men, American Journal of Epidemiology, doi:10.1093/aje/kwq007
© 2010 PhysOrg.com
Citation: Cola and unhealthy lifestyle lower sperm count (2010, March 31) retrieved 2 February 2020 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2010-03-cola-unhealthy-lifestyle-sperm.html This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
Mountain Dew does not kill sperm
Mountain Dew does not affect fertility. It has acquired the reputation of impacting fertility mainly due to caffeine and yellow dye 5:
Does caffeine affect fertility at all?
Share on PinterestMountain Dew does not contain enough caffeine and yellow dye 5 to affect fertility.
The Nutrition Journal reviewed 28 studies that looked at different sperm measurements.
The researchers concluded that results were not consistent enough to be conclusive, despite some evidence of negative effects.
Mountain Dew has a higher amount of caffeine in a 12-ounce (oz) serving than some other soft drinks, which has lead to people taking it as proof that Mountain Dew affects fertility.
Comparing 12 oz servings of Mountain Dew and other drinks shows only a small difference in the amount of caffeine in each:
People should still watch their caffeine intake, although caffeine is unlikely to affect fertility. But it is doubtful that Mountain Dew’s caffeine content would affect fertility when consumed in moderation.
Does yellow dye 5 affect fertility?
Yellow dye 5 is one of the most commonly used food additives.
The chemical name of yellow dye 5 is tartrazine. Tartrazine is what gives Mountain Dew its yellow color. Also, people often cite that tartrazine is a potential allergen as part of the myth.
There are not many current studies on the effects of tartrazine on fertility. One study in rats, although dating back to 1988, was published in Food and Chemical Toxicology and indicated no adverse effects to consuming tartrazine.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have approved color additives, including tartrazine, for use in both food and drugs.
Tartrazine does pose a risk of allergy to a small portion of the population. People who are allergic to tartrazine may experience side effects from its consumption.
Side effects of tartrazine include:
People who are allergic to tartrazine should avoid its consumption in food and beverages, but not because of any concerns about effects on fertility.
Yellow dye 5, as well as other food dyes, may be contaminated with carcinogens or substances that convert to carcinogens in the body, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).
Food dyes are among many additives that the CSPI recommend to avoid for a variety of health reasons.
Tristan asks: Does Mountain Dew kill sperm?
Tristan- If you’re thinking that a 3 pack of condoms costs around $5 and Mountain Dew is only $1.99 for the 2-liter, so why not save yourself $3 on your contraception, think again! Pay the extra money! Mountain Dew does not kill your sperm, lower sperm count, make your penis smaller, or shrivel up your testicles (unless it’s ice cold and placed directly on your testicles, then there might be some temporary shriveling).
I always love a good urban legend. I once got a co-worker to believe coffee shrank his penis. All I needed to do was use a bunch of big words in a meaningful way. (It also helps being a paramedic, as people tend to take your medically protestations more seriously and you have a bigger store of medical terms on hand. It provides quite a bit of fun, I can tell you.) I made sure to use medical terms he didn’t understand, and BAM! He stopped drinking coffee for weeks. He figured it out a few weeks later and never believed anything I said again. I can only assume this myth came about in a similar way. That being said, I’m never one to just say something without explaining why. Let’s look at Mountain Dew and see why exactly it doesn’t kill sperm.
Mountain dew has numerous ingredients. The two that get mentioned the most in this myth are caffeine and Yellow dye #5, also known as Tartrazine.
Let’s start with caffeine. Mountain dew contains 54mg of caffeine in a 12 oz can. That might seem like a lot since coke has 34mg per 12 ounces, Dr. Pepper has 41, and Pepsi has 38. If caffeine was truly the cause, drinking coffee would also have to be out. The average cup of drip coffee has 217mg per 12 ounces, about 4 times more than the Mountain Dew! So for comparison’s sake, Mountain Dew doesn’t contain very much caffeine, compared to other things many commonly drink.
The idea that caffeine affects the chances of having a baby is true. There have been several studies that show women who drink 3 or more cups of coffee a day have a decreased chance of becoming pregnant compared to those who don’t drink coffee. Unfortunately, the exact nature of why caffeine affects conception rates is unknown. Because those who drink more caffeine also tend to have unhealthier lifestyles, many of the studies site life style as the reason and not necessarily the caffeine itself.
The idea that caffeine intake affects sperm in some way seems to be dose related. The Chemical Health Hazard Assessment Division of the Canadian Bureau of Chemical Safety (they really need to work on that name!) reviewed all the current studies on the subject and found that they showed that if a man drank one or two cups of coffee per day, he would have an increase in his sperms motility (the ability to move) and density. If you drank 4 or more cups and also smoked more than 1 pack of cigarettes per day, your sperms motility and density would decrease. The study concluded that only heavy smokers need to worry about drinking too much coffee and sperm problems. The authors went on to say that those sperm problems would most likely not affect fertility.
In the end, it appears you would have to drink about eleven 12 ounce cans of Mountain Dew (or a similar amount of other popular caffeinated soft drinks) and smoke over 20 cigarettes before your sperm would be affected. If you did, that affect wouldn’t cause any fertility issues. At that point, I would worry more about your cancer and diabetes risk, not to mention the effects on your heart and lungs, before I would worry about your sperm.
Now let’s look at the other proposed cause of sperm problems and Mountain Dew- Tartrazine (yellow dye #5). Tartrazine has been used in food, ice creams, drugs, and many other products since 1916. Most all of Tartazine you put in your body will come out in your urine. Very little is actually metabolized by our bodies. The European Food Safety Authority re-evaluated the effects of Tartrazine in 2009. What they found was that there are no adverse effects on reproduction or development from consuming Tartazine. They even tested people at a rate of 1225 mg/kg and still found no adverse effects. So for a 175 pound person that’s 97,443 miligrams! It would be impossible to drink enough Mountain Dew to exceed these levels.
Sperm affects aside, the FDA does recommend that we should only ingest 5 milligrams per kilogram per day of Yellow dye #5. This has nothing to do with reproduction worries, but more about allergic reactions. There is a small percentage of the population that is allergic to Yellow dye number 5 (1/10,000 causes hives according to the FDA). The Center for Science in the Public Interest notes that Tartrazine is found in so many products, from Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and Doritos to shampoos and hand stamps, that the average daily consumption is approximately 12.75mg per day. At these levels, there is still no worries about sperm problems- just allergy ones.
In the end, Mountain Dew will not affect you sperm, testis, or penis size in any way. Should you want to ignore all scientific evidence to the contrary, I suggest you also have your mate stand on her head after copulation. There is no way she could get pregnant then!
If you liked this article and the Bonus Facts below, you might also like:
- Statistically, the Pull and Pray Method Works About as Well as Condoms at Preventing Pregnancy
- The Youngest Person to Give Birth was Just 5 years Old
- The Record for the Most Babies Born to 1 Woman is 69
- What Causes Birth Marks
- According to the World Health Organization, the average ejaculation contains approximately 100 million sperm cells. If you have less than 20 million per milliliter, you are at risk of infertility issues. It only takes one of those little guys to fertilize an egg.
- Unlike women, who stop producing eggs after menopause, a man will be able to produce sperm throughout his life. Although the older he gets, the less sperm he can produce.
- Inside of a woman’s body, a sperm cell can live up to 5 days. Outside of the body, it depends on the conditions. The warmer and wetter the environment, such as a bath or hot tub, the longer it will live. In a dry environment, such as clothing, they die quickly, once the semen has dried.
- Even though Mountain Dew doesn’t affect sperm, temperature does. Optimal sperm production requires specific temperatures. It’s for this reason that when men get too cold, as in the case of swimming in a cold pool (“I just got out of the pool!”) your testes retract back into your body. Conversely, when you get too warm, your body allows them to hang lower via the cremaster muscle. This keeps them cooler. Many studies point to a temperature of between 35-36 degrees Celsius as the optimum sperm production temperature. Your body is normally around 37 degrees C. The warmer your testes, the greater chance your sperm will have damage. So keep the lap-tops off your lap and your heated car seats on low!
- Whether your sperm is good or not, in certain cases, you might want to think twice about donating sperm in Kansas. The state of Kansas has now taken to going after sperm donors for child support. (I can’t make this stuff up!) Mr. William Marotta of Topeka Kansas donated his sperm to a lesbian couple in 2009. Thinking he was doing his due diligence, he and the couple signed an agreement that he would not assume any financial responsibility for any child they mothered. Fast forward 3 years, and that couple is now separated. One of them lost her job and applied to the state for support. The state then sued Mr. Marotta for back child support- saying that because he did not go through a physician to donate the sperm, there was no proof he wasn’t the mother’s lover. They disregarded the agreement he signed, stating it wasn’t sufficient proof! Sketchy Kansas, sketchy!
Expand for References
June 18, 2009 — Tight briefs, red meat, varicose veins or stress? Which has been shown to actually reduce a man’s sperm count and lead to infertility?
Low sperm count is an uncomfortable subject for some men to discuss, which may be why so many urban legends have sprung up about its causes.
While many grow up hearing that drinking Mountain Dew or shunning boxers can create barriers to fatherhood later on, studies haven’t backed up those claims.
Meanwhile, a lesser-known condition that needs a doctor’s diagnosis often goes overlooked.
“The most common treatable cause of male factor infertility is called varicocele,” said Dr. Dan Williams, director of male reproductive medicine and surgery at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.
Varicocele is a condition where varicose veins surround the testicle, typically the left one. Although the exact mechanism is unknown, Williams said the most widely accepted theory is that the varicocele increases the heat around the testicle.
“After we repair a varicocele, scrotal temperature decreases,” he explained. Doctors don’t know what causes varicoceles, but they are easily treatable and can only be diagnosed by a doctor.
“This is another reason it’s very important for men to be evaluated by a urologist who’s specially trained in male infertility,” said Williams, noting that the common route of the man being evaluated by his primary care doctor or his partner’s OB/GYN is often not enough.
“Just because they have sperm doesn’t mean that there’s not something harmful or treatable that we can diagnose that can help us to improve the sperm counts,” he said.
In his own clinic at the University of Wisconsin, Williams notes, couples are screened together, with the woman seeing an OB/GYN and the man seeing a urologist.
“Couples are evaluated for male and female factor infertility issues simultaneously,” he said. “Fertility really is a couples thing not just a male or a female thing.”
But when it comes to figuring out on your own how to avoid infertility, what you hear can be misleading.
“The problem with a lot of these studies is there’s something being reported in the medical news every single day, and often they’re contradictory,” said Dr. Abraham Morgentaler, associate clinical professor of urology at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and author of “Testosterone for Life.” “In general, if there’s something that makes a really big difference, the data are consistent and they’ll show up often in a variety of studies under a variety of different conditions.”
He notes that a lot of myths circulate around diet and fertility, but some of those have weak data and others show effects in animals that have not been replicated in humans. What he tells patients, Morgentaler said, is his fertility motto: “Live clean, stay cool. I think that’s important.”
“The point is that heat is a definite, no questions asked, has an impact on sperm production. And the live clean is that we know a number of recreational drugs appear to have some impact on fertility,” he explained.
In the following pages, we see which alleged sperm-killers are culprits to avoid and which don’t have evidence showing them to be all that harmful. Still, all couples with fertility troubles would do well to seek out a professional opinion.
<em>Avoid or Ignore:</em> Boxers vs. Briefs
“Most doctors now laugh that one off,” said Morgentaler.
The reasons why boxers are said to be superior seem obvious. If the purpose of the scrotum is to keep the testicles away from the heat at the core of the body, briefs would seem to defeat that purpose.
“It is consistent with the concept that excess heat can be detrimental to testicular function,” said Williams.
But the evidence doesn’t seem to back that idea.
“There are no well-controlled studies that look into the choice of underwear, briefs versus boxers,” said Williams. “There’s no scientific data I know of … head-to-head studies of boxers versus briefs showing a difference.”
A study from the State University of New York at Stony Brook was published in the Journal of Urology in 1998 where 97 men with infertility were examined to see if their underwear choice made a difference.
Researchers found an average difference of less than half of a degree Fahrenheit in temperature of the scrotum between men who wore one underwear type or the other, with a margin of error larger than the difference.
“It is unlikely that underwear type has a significant effect on male fertility,” wrote the authors. “Routinely advising infertility patients to wear boxer shorts cannot be supported by available scientific evidence.”
<em>Avoid or Ignore:</em> Laptops
If you are trying to avoid excess heat in the region, putting a computer that generates heat in your lap may not be the best idea.
“If there is excessive heat put out by the laptop, excess heat exposure from the laptop to the testicles may have a detrimental effect,” said Williams.
“If there is prolonged use on the lap … it’s important to be aware of that,” he said.
A 2005 study from Stony Brook also indicated that using a laptop on the lap can elevate the temperature of the scrotum several degrees.
But other concerns about modern electronics aren’t as well backed up.
When it comes to radio waves generated by cell phones or wi-fi from laptops, it’s unclear what if anything they do to sperm.
“This effect remains to be determined, but researchers are looking into that,” said Williams. “Whether it’s clinically significant remains to be determined.”
<em>Avoid or Ignore:</em> Jacuzzis
“The take-home message on that is to avoid excess heat,” said Williams. “Any prolonged exposure to excess heat can be detrimental to the production of sperm and sperm quality.”
He noted that other heat sources, such as saunas, could present a similar problem.
“If men are regularly hot-tubbing or using the sauna and if they have impaired sperm quality or sperm counts, that would be one strategy to try to improve the sperm count or sperm quality.”
While hot tubs can present a problem, Williams noted that studies have not shown how much exposure to them is too much.
Morgentaler noted that the problems hot tubs and saunas present are not surprising.
“The testicles live outside the body for good reason,” he said. “Heat is bad for sperm production, so bad that…humans and many but not all mammals have the testicles outside the body in a pouch called the scrotum to keep the testicles cooler.”
While noting that a fever can have a similar effect, Morgentaler said that a man who likes the occasional hot dip shouldn’t be too alarmed that he is ruining his chances for fatherhood.
“An occasional hot bath or a single episode of a Jacuzzi is probably not enough to do anything,” he said.
<em>Avoid or Ignore:</em> Obesity
Avoid, If Only For Other Reasons
While obesity brings obvious health problems with it, a low sperm count may be one more to add to the list.
There are two possible problems obesity presents: a hormonal one and a physical one.
“There are two main potential effects that obesity can have on testicular function,” said Williams.
“Obesity can affect the male hormones. Testosterone can get converted to estradiol in our peripheral adipose tissue and in men who are overweight there is increased conversion of testosterone to estradiol. That can effect sperm production or the quality of the sperm.”
“The other effect is heat,” said Williams. “When there’s excess heat around the testes, then that can impair the testicular function.” Excess adipose tissue, he said, acts as insulation and increases heat in the scrotum.
Sharon Moalem, a physiologist at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and author of “How Sex Works,” said the former explanation would be more likely.
“Where we live is so temperature controlled, it’s not that big of a difference. It probably has more to do with hormonal ,” said Moalem.
“It may just be that obese individuals may have hormonal disruption.”
Obesity should be avoided for many reasons, but Morgentaler noted that it should not be the primary concern from this list for obese men suffering from infertility. Most men who are obese, he said, have no trouble, although “there is some suggestive evidence that some men with obesity will have impaired sperm numbers.”
<em>Avoid or Ignore:</em> Steroids
While some of the effects steroids have may be overstated, their negative impact on fertility has not been.
“People who are on high-dose performance enhancing anabolic steroids sometimes can have damage to their hormonal system so that they may end up permanently sterile. That’s one of the risks,” said Morgentaler.
“One of the side effects of giving men even medical testosterone is that it will absolutely lower sperm numbers, even down to zero,” he said.
While men are given fertility treatments to increase testosterone, those treatments are designed to increase the body’s own production of testosterone.
“Whether it’s injected or it’s one of the topical gels, while it increases the body’s levels, any exogenous testosterone will shut off the body’s own production of testosterone, shutting off sperm production,” explained Williams.
He noted that men who receive fertility treatments to get their body’s to produce testosterone need to be patient, since it takes a few months for the effects to be realized.
“The treatment of male fertility takes time because it takes roughly 90 days for sperm to be made in the testicles and make the journey through the reproductive tract and end up in the semen,” Williams said. “The patients and the couples need to understand that treatment for infertility will take time before you can see the benefits.”
<em>Avoid or Ignore:</em> Smoking
While smoking should be avoided for any prospective father for other reasons, it may keep a man from becoming a father in the first place.
“Not that we need any other excuse to get up on our soap box to discuss tobacco cessation,” said Williams, but in addition to reducing lung cancer, quitting smoking can improve motility and sperm quality.
Moalem said the reasons for smoking’s harm to sperm are probably related directly to its toxic effects on the body.
“If you have high turnover of cells, if there’s environmental toxins, that may just interfere with your body’s ability to make healthy cells,” he said.
Given the image of a macho man with cigar in hot tub as the pinnacle of manliness, Moalem said, what we know about sperm production shows that it’s in fact “as far away from virility as you can get.”
<em>Avoid or Ignore:</em> Narcotics (e.g. Marijuana, Cocaine, Painkillers)
Avoid, But For Other Reasons
As debates about drug legalization arise, the science isn’t entirely clear on how these substances might affect our national fertility rates.
“The data around marijuana is not definitive but highly suggestive. It can lower the quality of sperm as well as probably the count,” said Morgentaler.
“There’s not a lot of good data out there about the effect of marijuana on sperm or sperm production,” said Williams. “There are a few studies about heavy marijuana use possibly impacting men’s hormone levels and the quality of the sperm, but these are smaller studies.”
Moalem notes that some risks can arise from cocaine use affecting circulation to the scrotal region.
“You could have a stroke in your testicle,” he said.
Some of the harm might actually arise from legal narcotics, as men on narcotic pain medications can have very low testosterone.
“If men are taking certain pain medications, certain pain medications contain narcotics, narcotics can affect men’s hormone levels,” said Williams.
<em>Take or Ignore:</em> Vitamins and Minerals
“The data on vitamins and supplements for men and sperm numbers — I don’t think there’s any definitive answer around them,” said Morgentaler.
That isn’t to say that men shouldn’t focus on getting vitamins and minerals into their diets naturally.
“Having a health lifestyle and eating a well-rounded, balanced diet is important for a variety of reasons,” said Williams.
He noted that a diet rich in antioxidants can help when sperm quality.
“When you start talking about food or nutritional supplements, there are a number of labs that show improved sperm quality in the presence of antioxidants,” he said.
“I think the take home message is just a well-rounded, balanced diet. Excess of anything is not necessarily a good thing,” said Williams.
Moalem pointed out that adding more spinach to a diet for its folate can have added benefits, even if it’s unclear if or how it helps men’s sperm.
“It’s healthy anyways and it’s not something people think about,” he said. “And it’s good for women who are trying to conceive as well.”
While the benefits of folate aren’t clear for men, it has been shown to benefit pregnant women, and presumably a couple trying to conceive is also eating the bulk of their meals together.
<em>Avoid or Ignore:</em> Red Meat
“A lot of people have heard that red meat is supposed to be bad for you. The good news is it’s not something bad for your sperm,” said Morgentaler.
Because of the number of groups that oppose meat eating for moral reasons, any study showing harm from meat eating is likely to be promoted.
Last week a story in the British press on possible hazards of meat eating drew enough attention that the National Health Service (NHS) felt compelled to let people know that the study was not as significant as the promotion made it out to be.
“The study was small and has limitations because of its design. This research should be regarded as preliminary evidence, and larger studies will be needed to explore whether diet does affect semen quality,” the NHS said.
The NHS noted that the study found men who consumed more protein had sperm abnormalities, the study had not even looked at where the protein had come from.
“One of the challenges in designing studies that look at nutrient in male fertility is designing a well-monitored study of what men are really eating,” said Williams.
He noted that the effects of foods and environments can vary between individuals.
“Those are factors that are very difficult to control when you’re doing a research study about male infertility.”
<em>Avoid or Ignore:</em> Emotional Stress
Undetermined — But Worth Watching
“Unfortunately, there aren’t any good well-controlled studies that investigate the direct effect emotional stress has on male factor fertility,” said Williams.
He noted that the concern behind emotional stress is not on sperm production but on the effect infertility might have on the couple.
Because infertility can be so stressful, he said, he often refers couples to a counselor to help them through the process emotionally.
“Any strategies or coping mechanisms that help with stress management can certainly be beneficial as they go through the fertility process,” said Williams.
“But whether or not the stress management directly improves the testicular function and production of sperm is unknown at this point.”
Moalem notes that there might be some physiological reasons why emotional stress would cause fertility problems.
When the fight or flight response is triggered, he said, “you spend more energy…to get you out of a bad situation than to maintain the body.
“Our body’s not geared toward reproduction as much.”
For that reason, he said, when women are under a lot of stress, it can actually bring on an early period, perhaps the body’s way of saying “It may not be the best time to have kids.”
Moalem noted, however, that “I haven’t seen any studies that do a good job for . It’s very hard to study because it’s so individual.”
<em>Avoid or Ignore:</em> Aging
Obviously aging itself can’t be avoided, but ignoring the biological clock when deciding when to have kids can be a problem for men as well as women.
“Certainly the impact of age and fertility is better established and more pronounced in women than in men, but there is growing evidence that with time the quality of men’s sperm declines,” said Williams. “There can be impaired sperm quality with advanced paternal age.
“There are some studies that demonstrate that when combined with advanced maternal age, that advanced paternal age can put offspring at risk for certain conditions like Down’s syndrome, autism and schizophrenia, but there’s active research going on in this field of advanced paternal age to better answer these questions.”
Morgentaler, however, notes that advanced paternal age is still less of a concern than advanced maternal age.
“There is an age-related decline in sperm numbers,” he said, but “Male fertility is very different from female fertility.
“That kind of abrupt change doesn’t seem to happen for men,” he said, adding that men in their seventies and eighties have fathered children naturally.
Radha Chitale contributed to this report.
Caffeine’s Effects on Fertility
Does caffeine make it harder for women to get pregnant as well as lower sperm count in men?
Let’s take a look at what the research reveals about how caffeine affects human fertility.
Caffeine and Infertility in Women
It looks like women who regularly consume coffee and/or energy drinks reduce their chances of getting pregnant.
However, don’t ditch the birth control just yet for a Bang Energy Drink. It only reduces a woman’s chance of getting pregnant by about 27 percent.
A study conducted at The University of Nevada School of Medicine in Reno showed that caffeine interfered with the muscular contractions of the fallopian tubes. The fallopian tubes are responsible for moving the egg from the ovary to the uterus. It is in the fallopian tubes where conception takes place. Therefore, if the smooth muscle contractions are reduced the egg won’t be in the optimal area for conception.
This study was conducted on mice but gives researchers more insight into how the fallopian tubes work in humans and could lead to cures for certain types of infertility.
The researchers recommend that women who are trying to get pregnant should quit consuming caffeine.
And if you think you can drink caffeine for added birth control, I wouldn’t count on it as nature usually finds a way.
Caffeine and Lower Sperm Count
Researchers at the University Department of Growth and Reproduction at the Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen, Denmark revealed the results of a study that investigated whether or not high caffeine consumption affects sperm count.
Some of the participants consumed mainly cola as apart of their 800 mg daily caffeine consumption while others consumed mainly coffee and tea as their primary source of caffeine. The results showed that the group that consumed mainly cola-based soft drinks had a 30% lower sperm count. The men that primarily consumed coffee and tea had no change in their sperm count.
The researchers believe that there is some ingredient in the cola-flavored soda that is causing this, but they aren’t sure what it is as further research would have to be conducted to determine the culprit.
A more recent study showed that caffeine did not affect semen quality or sperm count. Src.
However, research out of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston found that men who consumed 265 mg of caffeine or more had the lowest chance of becoming a father through IVF. Why this happened is not understood since caffeine didn’t affect the number or quality of the sperm. Src.
The good news is that male caffeine addicts can still reproduce like rabbits, the bad news is that if this mystery ingredient is also in energy drinks then many men could have a problem.
Caffeine consumed in natural products like coffee and tea is usually best.
Written by Ted Kallmyer, last updated on January 7, 2020
Don’t make the mistake of letting a diet kill sperm
Few people know that the average man’s sperm count has dropped steadily over the past 40 years. This fact should scare everyone, especially men. However, sperm health is the last thing on the minds of most men. How nutrition impacts sperm is even farther away from our collective consciousness.
So why is the quality of sperm decreasing? Is this really a problem? Can we blame it on foods we’re eating? This post tackles these questions and shares some sperm-friendly nutrition tips.
Is declining sperm quality really a problem?
Yes, it’s a problem. A recent study states that average sperm counts have dropped by 59 percent over the past 38 years. With this drop in mind, it’s not surprising that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website states “in about 35 percent of couples with infertility, a male factor is identified along with a female factor.” Falling sperm counts, combined with the trend of having children at later ages, means that some couples will face difficulties with fertility.
Why are sperm counts dropping? Is our diet killing sperm?
No one knows why sperm counts are falling precipitously. Some say sperm are vanishing due to men resting laptops on their laps. Others blame the heat generated from cell phones sitting in pants pockets. Obesity is a likely factor. The doctor in me knows that the drop is likely due to a variety of factors. What we eat is always a culprit for any health problem. Accordingly, several studies suggest that consuming certain foods may harm sperm. The good news is that there are also foods that may improve sperm quality.
Five foods that decrease sperm health
Before I discuss foods that can affect sperm health, it’s worth noting that most studies dealing with nutrition aren’t set up to show that eating particular foods cause disease; most studies are only set up to show associations, not causes.
1. Processed meats
This is not surprising—recent studies link processed meats to all sorts of illnesses. Processed meats include hot dogs, salami, beef jerky, bacon, etc. I get it; they’re delicious. Yes, bacon can make anything taste better. In the case of sperm, several studies connect eating processed red meat with decreased sperm counts and altered sperm motility. It’s not clear how these foods affect sperm, but it appears the effect isn’t a positive one. Of note, these same studies did not find an association between eating chicken and reduced sperm health.
2. Trans fats
Researchers are primarily concerned about trans fats increasing the risk of heart disease. Unfortunately, the concerns don’t stop there. A 2011 Spanish study linked the increased intake of trans fats with decreased sperm counts. Check out this post from the American Heart Association for more info on trans fats.
3. Soy products
Soy products contain phytoestrogens—estrogen-like compounds that come from plants. A study of 99 men from fertility clinics in Boston concluded that excessive soy intake might decrease sperm concentration.
4. Pesticides and bisphenol a (BPA)
Honestly, these are probably the scariest on the list because they are not foods, but they still end up in what we eat. Plus, they’re everywhere. Obviously, pesticides end up on vegetables and fruits. They also end up in meat and fish due to tainted water supplies. BPA is no better—it’s in most food packaging and cans. It slowly leeches into the foods we eat. Both BPA and chemicals within pesticides act as xenoestrogens—chemicals that mimic estrogen. Just like the phytoestrogens in soy, xenoestrogens can wreak havoc on sperm concentration. On a side note, some of the same chemicals in pesticides can come from non-stick cookware.
5. High fat dairy products
Milk may “do a body good,” if you don’t include sperm as part of the body. The Rochester Young Men’s Study, an analysis of sperm and diet from 189 men between the ages of 18-22, showed that high-fat dairy products (whole milk, cream and cheese) were associated with decreased sperm motility and abnormal sperm shape. Some of this could be due to sex steroids given to cows.
Three foods that may improve sperm health
One small study associated higher amounts of fish consumption with better sperm motility. Other studies were inconclusive. The benefits associated with fish for sperm health are likely due to their high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids, but the role of fish in sperm health is unclear overall. Eating fish probably helps if it is an alternative to red and/or processed meats.
2. Fruits and veggies
A study of 250 men who had sperm analyzed at a fertility clinic showed that men who ate higher amounts of fruits and veggies, particularly green leafy vegetables and beans (legumes), had higher sperm concentrations and better sperm motility compared to men who ate less of these foods. This is not surprising since plant-based whole foods are high in anti-oxidants such as co-enzyme Q10, vitamin C, and lycopene. These micronutrients have been linked to higher sperm concentrations. Several studies have shown that co-enzyme q supplements may have a positive impact on sperm health, but ultimately we need more studies to make definitive recommendations.
In 2012, in a small study, researchers assigned 117 men ages 21 to 35 to eat or not eat approximately 18 walnuts daily for 12 weeks. The researchers analyzed sperm parameters before and after the study period. They found significant improvements in sperm vitality only in the nut group.
- Eat your veggies. Try organic veggies or at least make sure you wash your veggies thoroughly. If you don’t want to spend all of your money on organic vegetables, check out the environmental working group’s dirty dozen for the worst offenders.
- Cut back on processed meat; try fish instead.
- Be careful with trans fats (eat less fried junk food).
- Minimize soy.
- Watch out for BPA in canned goods. Look for BPA-free cans. Try to avoid plastics where possible.
- Don’t overindulge in high-fat dairy items (ice cream, whole milk, etc.).
- Don’t smoke cigarettes.
- Eat walnuts (if you don’t have a nut allergy of course).
- Lose weight if you are overweight
Bacon slice being cooked in frying pan. Close up. (Volodymyr Krasyuk)
Sperm killers are everywhere. They saturate you in the shower, seep into your skin in the checkout line, and even ooze into the convenience food you grab on the run. No matter the point of entry, many everyday chemicals are zapping their sperm counts and even silently scrambling DNA sperm data for men all over the world. Some cause sperm mobility problems, leaving your swimmers not swimming so well. And since the last time we wrote about this, a few more sperm busters have crossed our radar screen.
More: 11 Surprising Sex-Drive Killers
You might already know that narrow bikes seats have been linked to erectile dysfunction, and maybe you’ve heard about the study connecting antidepressants to sperm DNA damage. But other everyday habits are acting as sperm slayers, too. Once you understand the scope of harmful products on the market, it’s easy to see why fertility clinics are packed with customers, both male and female. Though we’ve found eight more culprits to add to our list, the good news is these everyday toxins are easier to sidestep than you may think.
Your baby-making mojo’s going to take a hit if you frequently find bacon and other processed meats on your plate. According to a study presented in October at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine’s annual meeting, men who favored sausage and bacon . Harvard School of Public Health researchers interviewed men visiting a fertility clinic and found those who ate just one piece of sausage or slice of bacon a day saw a 30 percent decrease in normal sperm. Instead, their sperm was more likely to be misshaped and puny.
On the flipside, men who ate fish and laid off the processed meat tended to have much healthier sperm quality.
Protect yourself: Lay off of processed meats, and learn how to buy better bacon. Otherwise, you can get your animal-based protein from the best seafood sources, including wild-caught Alaskan salmon and sardines.
Cash Register Receipts
Think how many times a day someone slips a cash-register receipt into your hand: Your morning coffee, your gas fill-up, your stock-up trip to the grocery store, your dinner and a movie. The transactions are endless. The problem is, about 40 percent of receipts today are coated with the hormone-disrupting chemical bisphenol A (BPA), which has been linked to fertility problems and heart disease. A new study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility just discovered that men with higher BPA levels in their urine experienced low sperm counts and lower sperm quality than men with lower levels.
Protect yourself: While there’s no direct evidence linking receipt handling to infertility, why take chances? Until electronic receipts become commonplace, say you don’t want a receipt at the point of purchase. If you do need one, store it in an envelope or folder, not in a pocket or in the wallet you’re constantly breaking open. Keep receipts out of the recycling bin, too; their BPA can contaminate water and recycled-paper products.
Many researchers believe the biggest source of BPA contamination comes through food packaging. Sure, canned food is convenient, but almost all of those metal cans are coated with a BPA resin, which migrates into the food. Acidic canned products, such as tomato paste or sauces, are particularly saturated with BPA.
Protect yourself: Choose fresh or frozen food instead of canned whenever possible, and buy foods like pasta sauce in glass jars rather than in cans.
We’re not telling you to send your entire adult toy box to the landfill, but to protect yourself and your partner, avoid dildos, vibrators, and male pleasure devices made of vinyl. This type of plastic unleashes phthalates, plastic-softening chemicals linked to cancer, allergies, birth defects, and infertility.
Protect yourself: Safely spice up your sex life by investing in green foreplay products made of high-quality medical silicone, such as the We-Vibe. For nonplastic pleasure, try a glass dildo.
Phthalates don’t just linger in your sex toys, but also in scented soaps, shampoos, and cleaners, and in vinyl shower curtains. (Ever noticed those things can give you a headache when you first hang them up?) And the heat from your shower makes it easier for the chemicals to be released.
Protect yourself: Choose a simple soap-and-shampoo-in-one, such as plant-based, unscented Dr. Bronner’s Baby Mild. Even though it’s a kid’s soap, it does the job. Plus, it’s free of harmful phthalate-containing products. Avoid personal-care products that have a fragrance or scent. And invest in a long-lasting hemp shower curtain instead of buying vinyl curtains every month or two.
Pesticides are designed to kill pests. Unfortunately, chemical pesticides don’t see much difference between your precious seed and a hornworm.
Protect yourself: It’s helpful to always wash your produce, but pesticides aren’t just on food, they’re in the food, too. So eat organic whenever possible, and start planning an organic garden. Be sure to avoid nonorganic produce on the dirty dozen list.
Heated Car Seats
For a man enduring sub-par temperatures, there may be no greater luxury than a heated car seat. But that between-the-legs toastiness may come at a price: damaged sperm quality. Heated car seats, heating pads, and even prolonged time in a hot tub heat up testicular temperatures just enough to decrease sperm production.
Protect yourself: Direct heat is the problem here, so if you’re cold in the car, just boost the heater and let the air circulate around the vehicle.
PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, a group of toxic compounds used extensively in the electricity industry, are banned, but the ones that are already out there will remain in the environment indefinitely, where they especially accumulate in fish. If you’re a fisherman, that doesn’t mean you have to give up eating your catch altogether, but you should look for cleaner waters and follow consumption guidelines to make sure you don’t ingest too many sperm-destroying PCBs.
Protect yourself: If you’re craving fish, opt for wild Alaskan salmon or consult your locale’s fish consumption advisories.
Nonstick chemicals used in pots and pans and in raingear often contain perfluoroalkyl acids, known as PFAAs; common types include PFOA or PFOS. But all of those acronyms could be making it harder for couples to conceive. A 2009 Danish study published Environmental Health Perspectives found that men with the highest levels of PFOS (3M stopped making PFOS in 2005) and PFOA had half the number or normal sperm cells compared to men with smaller amounts of the chemicals in their bodies.
Protect yourself: Once your nonstick cookware wears out, replace it with untreated stainless steel or American-made cast iron. Avoid store-bought microwavable popcorn, too. The bags are often coated with nonstick chemicals. Instead, pop your own.
Natural Gas Drilling
The industrial solvent benzene isn’t just a cancer causer, it’s also a sperm mutator. A study published in 2010 in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found that at benzene exposure levels allowed in the workplace, benzene-exposed men exhibited significantly higher genetically damaged sperm compared to unexposed workers, increasing the risk for birth defects in their children.
Even if you don’t work around benzene, your fertility could still be at risk, particularly if you live near natural gas drilling hotspots. Previously hailed as a clean energy source, researchers are finding that natural gas hydraulic fracturing compressor stations are emitting toxic air pollution, including high levels of benzene.
Protect yourself: Ask your elected representatives to remove the natural gas industry’s exemption from federal laws designed to protect public health. To protect yourself from other sources of carcinogenic benzene pollution, avoid scented candles and benzene-laced home cleaners.
Parabens are used in many cosmetics, cleaners, and even some processed foods as preservatives due to their cheap chemical antimicrobial activity. But lab and rodent studies have linked parabens to not only breast cancer, but also abnormal genetic changes in the sperm of male mice fed parabens.
Protect yourself: Visit Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database to judge the safety of your personal-care products; opt for these natural deodorants; eat organic, unprocessed foods as much as possible; and learn to make your own green cleaners.
“Safer” Flame Retardants
As once-popular flame retardants polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDEs) are phased out due to health concerns surrounding them, their replacements may cause their own issues. According to a study published in Environmental Health Perspectives in 2010 of the “safer” flame retardant and plasticizer replacements—chemicals known as TDCPP and TPP—men living in higher household-dust concentrations of the chemicals displayed lower sperm counts and declining thyroid hormone levels.
Protect yourself: Avoid furniture that meets California’s TB117 flammability law (usually found on a tag; you can also call the manufacturer) because the stuff is doused in flame-retardant chemicals. When buying furniture, request untreated foam, or, if you can afford it, purchase naturally flame-resistant furniture made of an organic cotton/wool combination. Further reduce your in-home exposure by cleaning with a high-rated vacuum cleaner.
Hidden in almost every type of processed food you can find under your roof, added sugars are likely killing your sperm count. University of Utah researchers found that when they fed mice sugar similar to what the average American eats daily, their were 25 less likely to successfully reproduce. Interestingly, the mice generally didn’t get fat or show signs of high blood pressure, but were more likely to die and have fewer babies.
Protect yourself: Added sugars are doing all types of horrible things to your body. Don’t exceed the American Heart Association’s recommended sugar levels, which are 5 teaspoons for women (20 grams); 9 teaspoons for men (36 grams); and 3 teaspoons (12 grams) for children. For reference, a can of soda generally contains up to 12 grams of sugar; a single slice of whole wheat bread contains up to 2 teaspoons of added sugars. For more reasons to ditch sugar, read 11 Weird Things Sugar’s Doing to Your Body.
This article originally appeared on RodaleWellness.com.
You are what you eat isn’t just advice for those watching their figures, it applies to couples who are struggling to conceive too.
We quizzed experts to sort out what foods to steer clear of if you want your bedroom mojo and swimmers in top form. Put these foods and drinks on your do-not-eat/drink list if you’re planning to have a baby.
1. Sugary foods and drinks Consuming excessive amounts of sugar increases the risk of poor heart health and also deals a huge blow to sperm quality and count. You’re also more likely to be at a higher risk of obesity and high blood pressure — both of which are bad news for your chances of conceiving.
2. Processed meats Bacon, ham, bologna, salami and hotdogs will hurt your sperm quality as it much as it will your waistline and heart health. Since processed meats contain more hormones as compared to untreated meats, this can affect one’s testosterone levels.
Organs like the heart, stomach, intestine, liver and kidney from pigs are rich in cadmium, which is a particularly harmful to sperm, especially smokers.
3. Canned food The cans containing beans, sardines and so forth are lined with a layer of bisphenol A (BPA) resins. Ob-gyn Dr Peter Chew, from the Peter Chew Clinic for Women, notes that both BPA and perfluoroalkyl acids have oestrogenic qualities which may reduce one’s sperm count. But it still remains unclear how much of the tinned stuff you’ll have to scarf down or there to be a negative impact. Do also avoid using non-stick pans which are often coated with unhealthy chemicals like perfluoroalkyl acids that reduce sperm quality.
4. Animal offal A steaming bowl of kway chap — a dish of kway teow in dark soy sauce served with braised pig intestines and skin — may be behind your conceiving problems. Organs like the heart, stomach, intestine, liver and kidney from pigs are rich in cadmium, which is a particularly harmful to sperm, especially smokers.
5. Alcohol Gleneagles Hospital urologist Dr Ho Siew Hong cautions that alcohol can impact sperm quality negatively on top of the other adverse effects it wreaks on the liver. For instance, large amounts of beer can lead to an increase in oestrogen levels in a man’s body, so watch your alcohol intake.
Foods that boost healthy sperm…coming up!
6. Tofu products SmartParents expert Dr Christopher Chong explains that consuming high amounts of soy can actually decrease one’s sperm count because it can mimic the female hormone, oestrogen. However, it’s still unknown just how much soy you’ll need to eat will produce this disastrous result. To be safe, avoid soy sauce, tofu, edamame and tempeh.
7. Full-fat milk and dairy products Pesticides and chemicals can find their way into cattle feed from the environment. Once consumed by the cow, these contaminants can bind to the fat in its body and some may be seep into its milk, which may decrease sperm motility.
8. Non-organic fruits and vegetables If you’re gunning to produce quality sperm, Dr Chong recommends foods that are free from pesticides and preservatives are your best bet.
“ all kinds of fruits and nuts, such as almond, walnuts, lentils and pumpkin seeds and flaxseeds.”
To boost your sperm Dr Chong notes that foods that are rich in antioxidants and zinc are great for sperm health. Be sure to pick out antioxidant foods like grapes, blueberries, broccoli and spinach which prevent cellular damage in sperm. Besides being a rich source of zinc, oysters also known to boost your sex drive as well.
Vitamins C, E and B, along with folic acid, are vital in improving sperm production, notes ob-gyn Dr Peter Chew from the Peter Chew Clinic for Women. “ all kinds of fruits and nuts, such as almond, walnuts, lentils and pumpkin seeds and flaxseeds.”
Green leafy vegetables like kai lan, spinach and orange-hued vegetables like tomatoes and carrots can also boost sperm health. Diet aside, how you prepare your food impacts your health, too.
Incidentally, having a regular exercise routine won’t just do wonders to lift your mood after a long day in the office, it will also boost your fertility. As with anything, exercise inmoderation. So, be sure not to be overzealous with working out as it will end up doing more harm than good.
Dr Chew points out that activities like cycling and weightlifting in particular, can aggravate one’s varicocele — a cause for a man’s low or no sperm count.
Elsewhere on SmartParents.sg…
Trying for baby? Avoid these common mistakes…
How long does it take to get pregnant?
5 things you may not know about IVF
Is Caffeine Linked to Male Infertility?
Caffeine is the most widely consumed psychoactive drug in the world. Hundreds of millions of people are technically junkies, imbibing that morning brew simply to stave off the fatiguing effects of caffeine withdrawal.
As caffeine is so widely consumed, scientists regularly study the stimulant. (After all, many of them are self-professed junkies, as well, and so nurture a personal interest.) Caffeine boosts athletic performance. Caffeine attenuates symptoms of depression. Caffeine raises blood pressure. The effects are endless.
Yet, an arena that has surprisingly escaped noticeable study is caffeine’s link to male infertility. A group of Italian researchers recently filled the information gap with a systematic review published to the Nutrition Journal.
After pouring through the published research, the reviewers turned up 28 relevant studies featuring nearly 20,000 subjects. They then scrutinized each study to uncover caffeine’s effects on semen quality, sperm DNA, and the time required to conceive.
Overall, daily drinkers of caffeine should be happy with the results.
The reviewers didn’t find any adverse effects of caffeine intake on semen volume, sperm count, sperm concentration, or sperm motility. However, one study did find that men drinking more than four cups of coffee per day had a slightly higher proportion of abnormally shaped sperm.
As for caffeine’s effect on the time needed to conceive a child, studies generally found no effect of moderate consumption. Men drinking fewer than three caffeine beverages per day shouldn’t be concerned that their caffeine habit will interfere with getting a partner pregnant.
The reviewers did return one disconcerting finding. A number of studies found that daily caffeine intake is associated with increased sperm DNA damage in the form of double-strand DNA breaks and aneuploidy, the presence of an abnormal number of chromosomes. Conceivably, such damage could lead to difficulty conceiving or a higher rate of genetic aberrations in children. This potential link is tenuous, however, and requires further study.
It should be noted that not all caffeine drinks are created equal. The reviewed studies consistently showed that daily consumption of caffeinated soft drinks was highly associated with male infertility, likely due to the sugar content. Low-calorie tea and coffee were generally not detrimental.
According to current scientific evidence, men consuming caffeine in moderation shouldn’t be too concerned that their habit will hinder their fertility.
By Shaoni Bhattacharya, San Antonio
Coffee makes sperm go faster, reveals a new study by Brazilian scientists. They suggest caffeine could form the basis of infertility treatment for some men.
Fabio Pasqualotto and colleagues at the University of Sao Paulo tested sperm quality in 750 men who ranged from those who never drink the brew to coffee aficionados.
Sperm motion, sperm concentration and the levels of hormones were all the same for mild, moderate and heavy coffee drinkers. “However, sperm motility was higher in patients who drink coffee compared those who do not,” says the team, which presented their work at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine meeting in San Antonio, Texas, US.
But a second study presented at the same meeting on another widely used drug – marijuana – revealed a detrimental effect. Smoking cannabis not only reduces the number of sperm and sperm volume produced by a man, it also causes sperm to speed up temporarily and then “burn-out”.
This premature “burn-out” may mean a sperm is not active enough to fertilise an egg when it reaches it.
The Brazilian researchers assessed coffee-drinking and semen quality in men undergoing vasectomies from January 1999 to September 2002. Those who sipped between one and three cups of coffee a day were classed as mild drinkers, those who had between four and six cups as moderate, and those who had over six cups a day were classed as heavy drinkers.
No differences were seen in sperm concentration or the levels of hormones such as testosterone or follicle-stimulating hormone between any of the groups. Neither did the way the sperm moved, for example their linearity, vary between groups. However, sperm motility was significantly higher in coffee drinkers compared with those who abstain.
The team suggests that compounds with active components based on caffeine may be useful for treating some infertile men.
The study on marijuana fits in with previous work that has shown the illicit substance adversely affects male fertility. The drug contains an active compound called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which can act on cannabinoid receptors found on human sperm. The previous work showed that THC can stop sperm binding to eggs.
The new study, by LJ Burkman and colleagues at the Andrology Lab, SUNY in Buffalo, New York, examined semen samples from 22 men who had smoked dope for an average of 5.1 years.
Semen volume and the number of sperm was significantly lower in the cannabis users compared to men who had never smoked the drug, but “surprisingly, sperm velocity and hyperactivity were abnormally high”, say the researchers.
“Hyperactivation” of the sperm is needed to fertilise the egg as it approaches it. “Premature, elevated hyperactivity may lead to early sperm burn-out, reducing fertilising capacity,” they say.
Cannabis smoking could also affect the fertility of women by raising levels of THC in their reproductive tract, which could then impact on sperm.