Male fertility crisis fears as sperm counts fall… and scientists blame everything from diet to tight underwear

|

UPDATED:

11:14 GMT, 5 December 2012

Falling sperm counts are a 'serious public health warning', scientists said yesterday.

A major French study has revealed that sperm counts and quality have fallen sharply since the start of the 1990s.

It is believed the trend is linked to diet, lifestyle and ‘gender bender’ chemicals – and possibly even tight underwear.

Worrying: Falling sperm counts in France are a serious warning to British men, scientists said yesterday. This image shows sperm fertilizing an egg

Worrying: Falling sperm counts in France are a 'serious warning' to British men, scientists said yesterday. This image shows sperm fertilizing an egg

A leading British expert said it was inevitable that falling sperm counts would affect male fertility and action was needed to investigate the causes.

Professor Richard Sharpe, of the University of Edinburgh, said: ‘In the UK this issue has never been viewed as any sort of health priority, perhaps because of doubts as to whether “falling sperm counts” was real.

‘Now, there can be little doubt that it is real, so it is a time for action.

‘Doing nothing will ensure that couple fertility and average family size will decline below even its present low level and place ever greater strains on society.

‘We still do not know which are the most important factors, but perhaps the most likely is that it is a combination, a “double whammy”, of changes such as a high-fat diet combined with increased environmental chemical exposures.’

The researchers used data from 126 fertility treatment centres. They found that from 1989 to 2005, there was a 32.2 per cent decrease in concentration of sperm – a rate of nearly 2 per cent a year.

Concerns: There are fears that because of falling sperm counts average family size will decline below even its present low level and place ever greater strains on society. This picture is posed by models

Concerns: There are fears that because of falling sperm counts average family size will decline below even its present low level and place ever greater strains on society. This picture is posed by models

The researchers said: ‘To our knowledge, it is the first study concluding a severe and general decrease in sperm concentration and morphology (healthy sperm) at the scale of a whole country over a substantial period.

‘This constitutes a serious public health warning. The link with the environment particularly needs to be determined.’

Professor Sharpe added: ‘Most couples are now delaying trying for children until in their 30s – when female fertility is on the decline.

‘This, combined with decreasing sperm counts in their male partner, leads to only one outcome – more couples are going to be experiencing fertility problems.’

The study is published online today in medicine journal Human Reproduction.