Sperm counts way down in Western males, study finds

Scientists who looked at sperm counts of men from North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand find that sperm count and sperm concentration have sharply declined over about a 40-year period.

Jason Spencer | Aug 01, 2017

Scientists who looked at sperm counts of men from North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand find that sperm count and sperm concentration have sharply declined over about a 40-year period.

The study is published in the journal Human Reproduction Update.

Researchers led by Dr. Hagai Levine at Hebrew University of Jerusalem examined nearly 43,000 semen samples from male participants from some 50 different industrialized countries who provided samples between 1973 and 2011.

The international team of scientists report an overall decline of 52.4 percent in sperm concentration an average decline of 1.4 percent per year. Sperm count plummeted 59.3 percent, or 1.6 percent per year.

"The extent of the decline is a heartache," said Levine, in a report by CNN. "It's hard to believe it's hard to believe for me."

While Levine stressed that his study did not look at what caused the declines in sperm viability, his and other previous studies show that fetal exposure to certain commonly used chemicals can disrupt the male reproductive system.

Some, like Prof. Michael Dourson at the Risk Science Center at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, suspect obesity may be contributing to the downward trend.

"The impact of the modern environment on health of populations and individuals is clearly huge, but remains largely unknown," said Levine. "Sperm count has previously been plausibly associated with environmental and lifestyle influences, including prenatal chemical exposure, adult pesticide exposure, smoking, stress and obesity. Every man can reduce exposure to chemicals, avoid smoking, keep balanced diet and weight and reduce stress."

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