‘We are not in crisis yet’: 60 per cent drop in sperm count can be reversed

Lifestyle factors are the likely cause of men's declining sperm counts.

Australian experts have responded to a new study which found men’s sperm count has dropped by nearly 60 per cent in the last four decades.

In the meta-analysis of 185 studies, the researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Icahn School of Medicine found a 52.4 percent decrease in sperm concentration and a 59.3 percent decrease in total sperm count.

The research, published in Human Reproduction Update, is an “urgent wake-up call” to explore the causes said the study’s lead author.

“If we will not change the ways that we are living and the environment and the chemicals that we are exposed to, I am very worried about what will happen in the future. Eventually we may have a problem, and with reproduction in general, and it may be the extinction of the human species,” lead researcher Dr Hagai Levine told the BBC., although other experts said the research and Levine’s claims should be treated with caution. 

Given the falling sperm counts were specific to men from North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, it suggests lifestyle factors are to blame; factors that can be reversed.

“The most likely cause of this halving of sperm count is obesity,” said Kelton Tremellen a professor of Reproductive Medicine at Flinders University. “Poor diet and lack of exercise, both endemic in the western world, has resulted in two-thirds of men being overweight or obese, and obesity is known to be a significant risk factor for both low testosterone levels and sperm count.”

Tremellen reiterated that the research should be a “wake-up call” for men to look at their lifestyles.

“By maintaining a healthy weight, plus eating plenty of good foods like fish, nuts, fresh fruit and vegetables, while avoiding high fat and sugar foods, will help maintain both a healthy sperm count and good overall health,” he said.