Sperm quality has been declining over the last 40 years in Australia, New Zealand, North America and Europe (1). A recent study has found sperm counts and concentration have declined by around 50% (1). The study did not look at the reasons which may have caused this decline by it has been linked to multiple environmental influences, including endocrine disrupting chemical, pesticides, heat. As well as lifestyle factors, such as diet, stress, smoking and obesity. One of the factors which might be part of the problem is our exposure to chemicals, such as Bisphenol A (BPA). These chemicals are known to disrupt the endocrine system due to their oestrogenic properties. The endocrine system includes our glands and organs responsible for secreting hormones. Hormones are responsible for many functions in our bodies, including fertility. As such, when something disrupts the normal secretion of our hormones, it affects our fertility. It is thought this process begins in utero as there have been studies where pregnant women who have been exposed to these chemicals have greater chances of producing male babies with hypospadias and undescended testes (conditions which can affect future fertility). It also affects current fertility of men with numerous studies showing exposure to both high and moderate amounts of BPA’s affecting sperm parameters.
BPA is a chemical used to manufacture polycarbonate plastics due to its ability to make plastic flexible. BPA can be found in:
- Most plastics including plastic bottles and containers.
- Canned foods and drinks.
- Dental sealants.
- In the products of cosmetics, hair products, deodorant, pesticides, couches, cleaning products, plastics, thermal receipts etc.
- Foods that have been in contact with chemicals.
What can we do?
1.Avoid chemicals as much as possible
- This includes taking receipts – if you don’t need it don’t take it – if you do need it, fold it inwards so the ink isn’t exposed and put it where you need it as soon as possible so it isn’t in your wallet and rubbing on your skin.
- Use natural cleaning products and wear gloves when using them.
- Use natural personal hygiene products and avoid aftershaves and sunscreen where possible.
- Avoid foods and drinks which have touched plastic and never heat food in plastic containers.
- Opt glass jarred food over canned food where possible.
- Use glass containers to store leftovers in.
2. Eat a diet rich in antioxidants
- Eat organic vegies when possible.
- Always wash your fruit and veg to wash away any pesticide residue which may be on it.
- Take an antioxidant, such as selenium, glutathione, or CoQ10.
- Follow the Mediterranean Diet, rich in fruit, vegetables, legumes, wholegrain and fish and low in meat.
- A study by Karayiannis et al. (2016) found that men who adhered closely to the
Mediterranean Diet had improved semen parameters (higher total count, concentration and motility).
- Cook your own foods from fresh ingredients whenever possible. This will cut down on eating foods which have been to contact with plastics. It will also increase your antioxidant intake.
Karayiannis et al. (2016). Association between adherence to the Mediterranean diet and semen quality parameters in male partners of couples attempting fertility. Hum Reprod, 32(1), 215-222. Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/humrep/article-abstract/32/1/215/2513723/Association-between-adherence-to-the-Mediterranean?redirectedFrom=fulltext