Sperm quality has declined by 38% in a decade – and poor diet and lifestyle could be to blame
Even in young men, sperm concentration fell by an average of two per cent every yearWent from 72
million spermatozoids per millilitre in 2001 to 52 million/ml in 2011Figures worrying as nearing 'danger level' of 40 million/ml, where conception becomes difficult
13:30 GMT, 21 January 2013
14:10 GMT, 21 January 2013
Sperm counts are falling at an alarming rate – up to 38 per cent in a decade – with diet and lifestyle largely to blame.
A Spanish study has found that even in young men, sperm concentration fell by an average of two per cent a year – and could soon hit levels where fertility is compromised.
A ten year-study of more than 200 men found the average concentration went from 72
million spermatozoids per millilitre in 2001 to 52 million/ml in 2011.
The Spanish study found that even in young men, sperm concentration fell by an average of 2 per cent a year
The researchers, from the University of Murcia. say the findings are important because previous research has shown that a concentration
lower than 40 million/ml makes conception more difficult.
'If the rate of loss we have outlines
continues, with an average decline in quality of two per cent per year,
the sperm of young men could reach this danger level of 40 million/ml in
a very short space of time,' said co-researcher Professor Jaime Mendiola.
In the study, researchers at the University of Murcia compared the results of 273 men aged between 18 and 23 years from the nearby town of Almeria, collected between 2001 and 2002.
They compared these with samples collected ten years later by 215 undergraduates from Murcia, all the while ensuring that both
sample groups had the same age range and similar characteristics.
The researchers found that men living in Murcia had a significantly lower sperm count compared to those living in Almeria.
40 per cent of the university students in Murcia had an alteration to
one parameter of their sperm, e.g. the mobility or morphology.
Lead researcher Alberto Torres Cantero, professor of
Preventative Medicine and Public Health at the university, said the study was also significant because it was the first
study to evaluate the evolution of sperm quality in young Spanish men
over ten years.
The findings are important because previous research has shown that a sperm concentration lower than 40 million/ml makes conception more difficult
'Before, there were no well performed studies to detect a change in sperm quality in Spain,' he said.
But he added the fact that semen quality has worsened does not necessarily mean that the number of infertile men has increased.
He said: 'This study measures semen quality and not fertility, for which specific criteria established by the World Health Organisation are used.'
'We believe that some prevention actions involving lifestyle improvements, such as a healthier diet, could increase sperm quality,' he added.
For this reason, the authors stress the
urgency for more research to highlight lifestyle interventions that could stem the decline in sperm quality.
The research is published in the journal Andrology.
Only last month a major French study found 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.
Between 1989 and 2005, average sperm counts fell by a third in the study of 26,000 men, increasing their risk of infertility. The amount of healthy sperm was also reduced, by a similar proportion.
The study is important because, with over 26,600 men involved, it is probably the largest studied sample in the world.
The findings also confirm research over the past 20 years that has shown sperm counts declining in many countries across the world.
The fact that the decline was progressive over the 17-year period indicates the problem is ongoing, the researchers said.
A leading British expert said it was inevitable that falling sperm counts would affect male fertility and action was needed to investigate the causes.