It's lifestyle that counts in fertility

Jul 27 2017

Dr Shaun Roman

University of Newcastle (UON) experts have reacted to a new study which shows a significant decline in sperm count over the last 40 years among men in Australia, New Zealand, Europe and North America.

Researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Icahn School of Medicine reviewed 185 studies and found a 52.4 per cent decline in sperm concentration and a 59.3 per cent decline in total sperm count among Western men between 1973 and 2011.

However, Dr Shaun Roman, reproductive toxicologist and member of UON’s Priority Research Centres for Chemical Biology & Clinical Pharmacology and Reproductive Science, stressed that the results should be treated as an early warning sign rather than a crisis alert.

“It should be noted that it only takes one sperm to fertilise an egg and, on average, Western men are still producing 50 million per ejaculate.

“The research certainly shows a steady decline but the bottom line is that we are not in crisis yet. However, if we do continue to follow this trend, we may very well see real problems in the next decade,” he said.

Dr Roman, who is also an affiliate of the Hunter Medical Research Institute’s Pregnancy and Reproduction Program, echoed the authors’ suggestion that further research is vital and should focus on identifying lifestyle factors behind falling sperm count.

“This should serve as a warning that we need to further explore the role our diet and environment pay on sperm production. It’s not just the number of sperm, sperm quality is also important. These factors may also lead to DNA damage and therefore affect the offspring produced.

“The results show there is not an age effect but an environmental effect that is limited to 'Western countries'. This requires some vigorous investigation moving forward.”