Margaret Atwood’s dystopian story, The Handmaid’s Tale, telling of a future in which whole populations are infertile, may scarily be a bit closer to reality than we think, when you look at recent global statistics on sperm count, says leading nutritionist Melanie Brown.
In August 2017, the results of a large long-term study were published, suggesting that for men in Europe, N. America, Australia and New Zealand sperm counts had fallen by more than 50% in less than 40 years, and still show no sign of ‘levelling off’ (Levine et al 2017).
So, what do researchers think is behind this dramatic decline in male fertility?
Obesity, sedentary lifestyles, poor diet and lifestyle are all contenders. But, another factor making it up the infertility ladder is the rise of metrosexual man. When I was growing up in the 1970s a bloke would probably have a bath every other day, and splash on a bit of Tabac or Old Spice on a Saturday night, but you wouldn’t really get more than that! So, when I had a sneaky peak at Love Island on TV last year, I was taken aback to say the least at the excessive male grooming and preening that that went on, at least equal to that of the women.
And therein lies the problem, the chemicals in many toiletries and skin care products are known to be hormone disruptors, or ‘gender benders’, like Bisphenol A (BPA), triclosan, phthalates and parabens, found in shower gels, shampoos, deodorants, body lotions, fake tans, sun tan lotion and even toothpaste. This means that they effectively alter testosterone levels and metabolism, reducing sperm counts effectively.
A recent Polish study has shown that men with the highest levels of parabens (especially butylparaben) in their bloodstreams have the lowest sperm counts with the poorest motility and morphology. And men are using these by the ton; the male grooming market is worth a fortune. I saw a new range of male grooming products advertised that promised ‘fresh and dry balls’, I couldn’t believe it, men would actually rub things straight onto their precious testicles, yikes!
So, taking steps to reduce exposure may be pretty important to protect male fertility. These are my relatively simple top tips.
- Don’t apply any lotions or potions directly on to the testicles; a bit of a wash and a good dry is all they need!
- Avoid aerosol deodorant; use a stick so you are not breathing in the vapours. Anti-perspirants contain parabens so try something like Schmidt’s Charcoal and Magnesium Stick from www.naturisimo.com
- Read the labels; nowadays there are lots of toiletry ranges that are chemical free. Parabens tend to have a prefix in front like butytl or methyl. Focus on shower gels, shampoos, deodorant and face and body moisturisers without parabens.
- Avoid fake tans and use organic/chemical free suntan lotion.
- Use a toothpaste that does not contain triclosan.
- Use a BPA-free sports plastic bottle or better still, a glass one.
- Never heat food in plastic, transfer it to a plate or ceramic dish before heating as heat accelerates the release of these chemicals into the food.
- Use BPA-free or glass food containers and lunchboxes.