Factors Which Affect Male Fertility

Date:2019-04-09 click:0


Alcohol affects the body’s ability to absorb zinc, a nutrient vital for healthy sperm. But research suggests that moderate drinking (two to four units a day, a unit being equivalent to about half a pint of standard-strength lager) has no harmful effects on sperm quantity or quality. “As many studies say there is a problem with alcohol as say there is not,” says Dr Allan Pacey, senior lecturer in andrology at Sheffield University. That said, heavy drinking can certainly reduce sperm counts.
It was once thought that men remained equally fertile throughout their lives. But scientists now believe that the quality and quantity of sperm falls slowly as men get older, with male fertility declining steadily after the age of 50. Whether the age of the father is linked to problems such as learning difficulties in the child is uncertain.
Fertility problems in men may be caused by “oxidative stress” — the effects of highly reactive molecules in the body that can cause cell damage. Oxidative stress is linked to lifestyle factors such as obesity, alcohol, diet, pollutants and smoking. Studies have shown that men with fertility problems who take antioxidant supplements (vitamin E, vitamin C, folic acid) as well as zinc and fish oils increase the chance of conceiving.
Bottom line: If you have been trying unsuccessfully to conceive for more than a year, consider dietary supplements.
A healthy diet will help maintain healthy sperm, but there is little evidence that veganism, vegetarianism or protein-rich diets have any dramatic effect. There is certainly no truth in the claim that meat eaters are more virile. “India has more than a billion people, 70 per cent of whom are vegetarian,” says Dr. Siladitya Bhattacharya, Professor of Reproductive Medicine at Aberdeen University. Chemicals called phytoestrogens, which are found in foods including soy, coffee and beer, have been linked to lower sperm counts, but the link is not proven. In south-east Asia, where soy is a staple, there is no evidence of declining fertility.
Men who smoke heavily — between one or two packs per day — are more likely to have abnormal sperm, but the effect on fertility is unclear. “The effects of smoking are controversial, but there are irrefutable effects on sperm quality,” says Dr Pacey. There is some evidence, he adds, that children whose fathers were heavy smokers may be more susceptible to leukemia.
Physically fit men tend to have healthier sperm, but excessive exercise (especially in combination with the use of illicit bodybuilding steroids and other drugs) can decrease testosterone production and lower sperm counts. Exercise can help control weight and flood the body with stress-busting hormones.
Frequent sex
More sex means the number of sperm in any given ejaculation declines. Intercourse every two or three days is thought to be the optimum for couples wishing to conceive. Having sex every day will probably decrease the chances of conception.
Contraceptive pill
In 2009, the Vatican published a report claiming that male infertility had increased because of synthetic female hormones from the Pill. It argued that female hormones released into the sewage system find their way into the water supply. The report was viewed with skepticism by many scientists, who pointed out that the body’s digestive system breaks down estrogen, so it is unlikely to be released into the environment.
Chemicals present in plastic packaging, detergents and shampoos, paints, glues, coatings and construction materials are known to mimic the effects of female hormones such as estrogen. Many environmentalists believe that when these substances find their way into the water supply, they may subsequently affect sperm. There is probably some truth in this, but the link is not clear. While some shellfish have changed sex as a result of “gender-benders” in seawater, adult human males are more robust. But it is possible that estrogen-mimics may have an effect on the developing foetus, in turn affecting fertility later in life.
There is good evidence that keeping the testicles warm will reduce sperm counts. “Don’t wear tight underpants,” says Dr. Pacey. Resting a laptop on the lap really can impair a man’s ability to conceive — not due to the transmission of Wi-Fi signals, but because of the heat generated by portable computers. The negative effects of cycling on male fertility that are found in some studies are probably related to the warmth generated in the crotch area. A decent saddle and padded cycle shorts will help.
Untreated sexually transmitted infections are one of the main causes of male infertility. Men who are exposed to the infection chlamydia, which is symptomless in males, can have problems in the testicular vesicles, where sperm is stored. Gonorrhoea, too, can affect male fertility. Mumps can sometimes lead to permanent damage to the testicles or even lead to male sterility.
Mobile phones, washing machines, Wi-Fi signals
Some electronic gadgets, including TVs, washing machines and Wi-Fi devices, emit low-energy, non-ionising radiation, and many studies have looked at possible links between them and male fertility problems. To date, the evidence for any effect is lacking. “If you take sperm and irradiate them in a dish (as was done in the recent Argentinian study of Wi-Fi), you see changes, but that is so far from what happens in the real world, and I see no evidence that it affects fertility,” says Dr. Pacey. Mobile phones have been linked to lower sperm counts in some studies, but many scientists remain skeptical.
Stress can cause hormone changes that may affect fertility, but it is far from proven. “I don’t know of any studies showing that stress is directly linked to sperm production,” says Dr Bhattacharya. Stress may affect how regularly you have sex.