The Upcoming Male Fertility Crisis and How To Avoid It

Are men becoming sterile?

Men all across the world are slowly losing their manhood.  It’s a well kept secret that over the last 100 years men are consistently producing less and less testosterone and have lower and lower sperm counts.

Here are two useful graphs to illustrate my point.

Here are measured testosterone levels in US men of different age cohorts over the course of their life:

male testosterone levels
Men are producing less and less testosterone

The near identical downward slopes in testosterone levels across different age groups strongly suggests large environmental changes which are effecting everyone.

Here are the measured sperm counts in a group of 15,000 men over four decades:

male sperm counts
Men produce twice as less sperm as they did 50 years ago

The typical male in 1990 produced half the amount of sperm as the typical man in 1950.  A man is considered infertile if his semen has a sperm count of less than 20 million/ml.  A pessimist could legitimately worry that we all might be incapable of making babies in 20 years time!

These results have been verified in many different experiments and are not a fluke.

Why Are Men Producing Less Sperm?

The two primary sex hormones are testosterone and estrogen.  Testosterone is what makes men men and estrogen what makes women women. More and more the human race is finding itself in a very estrogen rich environment.  The points of contact you have with estrogen like compounds is quite pervasive and all but impossible to avoid.   They include:

  • A wide variety of plastics, adhesives, and pesticides mimic estrogen when they enter the body, decreasing testosterone production. I’ve written about this before.
  • A variety of processed foods, particularly those containing soy, contain phyto-estrogens, plant compounds that have a similar effect to estrogen upon entering the body
  • Meat and dairy products that contain large amounts of hormones
  • A diet that stimulates the production of insulin and fat tissue, which effect hormone regulation and usually result in more estrogen and less testosterone being produced by the body.

To some degree all of these issues have been brought up in the media but it’s important to understand which ones are more or less important.

Let’s look at these issues in a little more detail and what you can do with your diet to combat this issue.

Decreasing Male Fertility: Who’s To Blame?

For a man, there’s hardly a more basic need than staying a man.  Male femininity has been the subject of ridicule since time memorial so it’d be a small tragedy to unknowingly subject it on yourself.

The ability for soy to mimic estrogen has gotten a fair amount of publicity lately, but in my opinion its effects are overstated because your body naturally regulates its internal hormone production based on what you eat.  Phyto-estrogens have been digested by people for thousands of years and the increase of dietary estrogen probably isn’t enough to account for the population wide effects seen over the years.  The same is probably true for growth hormones in animal products, but harder to quantify since hormone content isn’t labeled on food.

The presence of estrogen-like compounds in the environment (“obesogens”) poses a similar problem.  The effect undoubtedly exists, but difficulty in measurement and the wide variety of compounds we’re exposed to makes causality hard to determine.

Studies using urine samples suggest that most people have “obesogen” metabolites in their bloodstream above what would be considered safe and this likely promotes obesity and decreased testosterone production.

Diabetes, Obesity and Infertility: Composing A Symphony in C

More than likely the biggest culprit in decreased male sexual performance are the same things that have people taking lipitor and statins: a diet and lifestyle that promotes the ongoing production of fat tissue, low metabolic set points, high levels of insulin and physical inactivity.

The underlying causes of obesity, diabetes and male dissexuality all point to a malfunctioning endocrine system that leads the body to eat more, store fat, and produce less testosterone.  Being obese, impotent and comatose all go hand in hand.

Lifestyle Changes That’ll Improve Sexual Performance

Sadly, there’s little in the way of specific foods or exercise that pinpoint sperm count or steroid production.  Several foods can help on the margin, but it’s important to understand that male infertility and sexual impotence is a regulatory disorder and not a nutrient specific deficiency.  It has much more in common with general lifestyle maladies like cancer and diabetes than goiter (iodine) or scurvy (vitamin C).

So eating to improve sexual performance isn’t drastically different than eating to improve overall health, and losing weight and exercising regularly will do more to improve your condition than searching for some specific superfood to heal your condition.

That said, there are a few things that’ll make getting from point A to point B a little easier:

  • Try and eat lots of cruciferous vegetables
  • Try and avoid lots of processed meat and dairy
  • Zinc, folate, and reservatrol seem to be important nutrients in promoting testosterone production
  • Diets that are comprised primarily of carbohydrates are better than those comprised primarily of protein and fat

If you connect the dots, the specific advice that emanates from these points is on the bland side.  Eat your spinach, take the stairs to the office, blah, blah, blah, blah.

But if you’re a male and are having a hard time giving yourself a little motivation, just keep in mind…….

Your Sex Life Depends On It!!


Wong, Wai Yee, et. al. “New evidence of the influence of exogenous and endogenous factors on sperm count in man”

URL: http://www.ejog.org/article/S0301-2115(03)00162-3/abstract

Wallock, Lynn, et. al. “Low seminal plasma folate concentrations are associated with low sperm density and count in male smokers and nonsmokers”

URL: http://www.fertstert.org/article/S0015-0282(00)01697-6/abstract

Emilia, Juan, et. al. “trans-Resveratrol, a Natural Antioxidant from Grapes, Increases Sperm Output in Healthy Rats”

URL: http://jn.nutrition.org/content/135/4/757.long

Colagar, AH, et. al. “Zinc levels in seminal plasma are associated with sperm quality in fertile and infertile men.”

URL: http://europepmc.org/abstract/MED/19285597/reload=0;jsessionid=Vaihmt0kpibv3zfVc5Zg.4

Anandi, Prasad, et. al. “Zinc Status and Serum Testosterone Levels of Healthy Adults”

URL: http://idpas.org/pdf/3200ZincStatusandSerumTestosterone.pdf

Kappas, Attallah, et. al. “Nutrition-endocrine interactions: Induction of reciprocal changesin the A4-5a-reduction of testosterone and the cytochromeP-450-dependent oxidation of estradiol by dietary macronutrients in man”

URL: http://www.pnas.org/content/80/24/7646.full.pdf

“Regulation of Male Fertility by Bone”

URL: http://symposium.cshlp.org/content/76/279.long

Schwetz, Verena, et. al. “The endocrine role of the skeleton: background and clinical evidence”

URL: http://eje-online.org/content/166/6/959.long

Karsenty, G, et. al. “The mutual dependence between bone and gonads”

URL: http://joe.endocrinology-journals.org/content/213/2/107.long

Martin, G. B. “Effects of nutrition on testicular size and the concentrations of gonadotrophins, testosterone and inhibin in plasma of mature male sheep”

URL: http://www.reproduction-online.org/content/101/1/121.full.pdf

Travison, Thomas, et. al. “A Population-Level Decline in Serum Testosterone Levels in American Men”

URL: http://jcem.endojournals.org/content/92/1/196.full

Dindyal, S. “The sperm count has been decreasing steadily for many years in Western industrialised countries: Is there an endocrine basis for this decrease?”

URL: http://www.ispub.com/journal/the-internet-journal-of-urology/volume-2-number-1/the-sperm-count-has-been-decreasing-steadily-for-many-years-in-western-industrialised-countries-is-there-an-endocrine-basis-for-this-decrease.html#sthash.YC8HUqe9.dpbs

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