PERSONAL NOTE: Two articles: the first is about the declining fertility rate or sperm counts in the world. The second article below is about the sperm crisis in China! steve, usa, november 12, 2018 firstname.lastname@example.org blog – https://getting2knowyou-china.com
How to increase your sperm count and keep it up: lots of great sex, cold baths and garlic
This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Give fatherhood your best shot (few readers?)
Everything from heat to drugs to hormones to abuse during childhood can affect the number and health of sperm. Experts give tips on how to give a chance at fatherhood your best shot
17 June, 2018 Anthea Rowan SCMP (2share)
As we celebrate Father’s Day, here’s a timely look at how to protect that crucial asset that helps turn men into dads: their sperm.
And a friendly reminder that an enjoyable way to start the day – great sex – isn’t just great for heart health. Studies underscore the importance of regular sex for sperm health, too.
All kinds of factors play a role in sperm health, from the environment a man lives in, to what he eats, and even his mental health.
New research from the Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston suggests that abuse or neglect in childhood might have an effect on the quality of a man’s sperm.
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The study, based on the degree to which men had been exposed to physical, verbal or sexual abuse, or emotional neglect, analysed semen – the liquid that transports sperm – to assess key gene regulators found in sperm “miRNAs”; levels were 300 times lower among men who experienced early life abuse.
While the study was small, fertility specialists agree that there has been a steady decline in sperm quality over the past 20 years, which could be partly explained by a stressful contemporary lifestyle and partly by stress in childhood.
Infertility is a widespread problem and while we frequently focus on compromised female ability to reproduce, which accounts for a third of cases, a third is caused by male fertility issues – and a third by both. It is estimated that one in 20 men has some kind of fertility problem.
A complete lack of sperm occurs in about 10 per cent to 15 per cent of men; a hormone imbalance or blockage could be responsible. In some cases, a man produces less sperm than normal. The most common cause of this is a varicocele – an enlarged vein in the testicle.
Found in about 40 per cent of men with infertility problems, this can be surgically treated, says Dr Ernest Ng, clinical professor at the Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology at the University of Hong Kong.
Male infertility can be caused by complications that need medical intervention – varicoceles, tumours, infections, hormone imbalances, and physical defects such as undescended testes and blocked tubes, Ng says.
Sometimes, medical intervention itself, such as radiation treatment for cancer, X-rays and certain medications, may trigger problems. But there are a host of other factors that impact male fertility that can be addressed much more easily, and by the men themselves.
Keep them cool
The testicles need to maintain a temperature about two degrees Celsius cooler than core body temperature. “This is the reason the testicles are located outside the body in the scrotum rather than in the abdomen like the ovaries,” says Ardyce Yik, a naturopathic doctor.
It explains why, when it’s hot, the scrotum relaxes and the testicles settle lower, and, when it’s cold, as all men know, they rise up and sit closer to the body.
If the testicles are too hot for too long, sperm quality and quantity are affected. That can happen in baths that are too hot, feverish states from prolonged illness (sperm takes time to recover just as its bearers do) and heat radiation from outside sources – male chefs, for example, shouldn’t stand too close to hot ovens for too long, and laptops, which can get quite warm, must not be balanced on – well, laps.
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Dr Ng warns men not to keep radiation- and heat-emitting mobile phones in their trouser pockets. Even sitting for too long can cause the testes to get too warm, so get up and get moving – the man-spread might not be genteel but it is healthier.
Healthy sperm need a healthy diet. Dr Yik refers to a pair of Harvard studies. One found that men who ate between one and three servings of processed meats a day had worse quality sperm than those who ate the fewest servings. Another found that men who ate fruits and vegetables with higher levels of pesticide residues had lower sperm counts than those who ate produce with lower pesticide residue levels.
Don’t drink too much
A damaged liver can’t remove toxins from your body – toxins that can also destroy sperm cells. Excessive alcohol use hastens the conversion of testosterone to estradiol – the primary female sex hormone. You know that’s not going to be good for sperm production.
And on the subject of hormones – don’t get too heavy: obesity can cause hormone changes that reduce male fertility. A study of 1,285 men found a link between obesity and a lower volume of semen, sperm count, concentration and motility (how swiftly and strongly they swim), and greater sperm defects.
Both experts warn that smoking, too, has been proven to reduce sperm count and motility. So give up the cigarettes along with the booze and the bacon butties if you want to be a father.
Dr Ng adds that overexposure to certain environmental elements such as chemicals, pesticides and heavy metals can affect sperm health. Drug use – recreational and prescription – can also affect sperm quality and quantity. Marijuana might seem harmless but it can decrease testosterone levels in the testes. Opioids do the same. Cocaine is among the worst as it constricts bloody supply, including to the testicles.
How fertility and having children in Hong Kong has changed over the years
Perhaps paradoxically, given that they are often used to promote a macho image, steroids are also hugely damaging. They shut down the stimulus for your body to produce testosterone because their use fools your body into thinking you’ve already produced enough of it. Without good testosterone production, your testicles start to shrink.
And finally, back to sex.
Research by the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology showed that men who ejaculated daily for seven days had better quality sperm at the end of the week than men who didn’t ejaculate at all during the same period of time. The less time sperm spends in the testicles, the less likely it is to be damaged.
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Brief abstinences from sex, though, promotes sperm health – motility and morphology (healthy shape). Men need about 48 hours post-ejaculation to produce optimum amounts of sperm. Having sex more frequently or much less frequently with long periods of abstinence can result in a lower sperm count and decreased sperm motility. Sperm needs time to recover in the libidinous energetic, but the longer you go without sex, the lazier sperm gets.
Folic acid isn’t just important for expectant or mothers. Men with low levels of folic acid exhibit a higher rate of abnormal chromosomes in their sperm, and if such sperm fertilises an egg, it may result in miscarriage or birth defects. More than half of first-trimester miscarriages are caused by chromosomal abnormalities in the embryo.
A good multivitamin or foods that are high in folate – beans, leafy green vegetables, whole grains, citrus fruits, and folate-enriched cereals, breads, and pastas – will help reach the recommended daily dose of 400mg of folic acid.
Tomatoes are a rich source of lycopene, an important antioxidant known to improve sperm structure and sperm count. A single glass of tomato juice every day can be a powerful way to boost sperm count. Adding olive oil to cooked tomatoes helps your body absorb lycopene.
Eggs are one of the healthiest sources of protein and vitamin E. Regular consumption of eggs improve sperm count and motility and protect them from oxidative stress.
Berries – strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, and cranberries – are a rich source of vitamins and antioxidants. The anti-inflammatory properties of berries protect sperm from free radicals and help produce healthier, stronger sperm in higher volumes.
The Vitamin B6 and selenium in garlic play an important role in healthy sperm production. Garlic has cleansing properties, too, which remove impurities from arteries to improve blood flow; poor blood supply to the testes contributes to infertility. It also contains zinc, which is known to increase testosterone, sperm motility and sperm count.
Aim to have 15mg of zinc a day. You’ll also find zinc in seeds including pumpkin, squash, watermelon and sesame, as well as in wheat germ, chickpeas, oysters – and plain chocolate.
The food of love, chocolate also contains arginine, an amino acid that can improve sperm count and quality.
This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Give fatherhood your best shot
Falling sperm counts in China may hurt effort to boost birth rate, statistics suggest This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Low birth rate, an ageing population … and now sperm counts are in decline
• Trends are in line with those in the developed world
• Critics discount research that suggests male infertility is increasing
27 October, 2018, 9:30pm Mandy Zuo scmp (161share)
Is China in the midst of a sperm crisis? New statistics strengthen a growing belief that Chinese men are joining the developed world in producing less sperm in their semen, a trend that raises questions about their fertility in a country that is trying to boost its birth rate.
At Shanghai-based Fudan University’s sperm bank, which opened in June, just 10 per cent of semen collected from over 100 donors aged under 35 met the bank’s quality standards, local media reported.
The quality drop was in evident at the 15-year-old Shanghai Human Sperm Bank at Renji Hospital, where 25 per cent of the semen taken from donors last year was acceptable, down from more than 40 per cent in 2013.
And the sperm bank at Peking University Third Hospital in Beijing had fewer than 20 per cent of samples collected from September 2015 to May 2016 make the grade.
What’s happening in China seems to be in line with what researchers have found in the developed world. Last year, a study suggesting that sperm counts of men in Western countries had dropped by 50 per cent within nearly 40 years provoked heated global discussion.
A meta-analysis of more than 180 research papers published from 1973 to 2011 indicated a 52 per cent decrease in sperm concentration and a 59 per cent decline in total sperm count among men in North America, Europe, New Zealand and Australia.
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The statistics come as China faces huge challenges with its new births in decline and a quarter of the population expected to be aged over 60 by 2030. Its rapidly ageing population pushed Beijing to end the notorious one-child policy – introduced in 1979 to control population growth – in 2016, and couples can now have two children.
But despite the new policy, just 17.6 million babies were born in mainland China last year, compared to the 241 million people aged over 60, Xinhua reported in June, citing National Health Commission figures.
“Falling sperm count is an indisputable fact globally,” said Qi Guangchong, an andrologist from Shanghai’s Yueyang Hospital of Integrated Traditional Chinese and Western Medicine.
Based on an international examination of the semen of men whose partners had conceived within 12 months of first trying, the World Health Organisation has suggested that “normal” human semen today contains at least 15 million sperm per millilitre, and boasts at least a 40 per cent rate of motility (the ability of organisms and fluid to move or get around).
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Nearly 40 years ago, when the WHO’s first edition of its laboratory manual for the examination and processing of human semen was published, the lower limit of output of sperm per millilitre in its member states was 60 million and the motility rate 70 per cent.
The publication has been updated four times since then, and each time the standards by which WHO judges the acceptability of sperm have been lowered.
By contrast, sperm banks in China today follow health ministry guidelines that are similar to those set by the WHO four decades ago, setting the bar for sperm count at 60 million sperm per millilitre and for motility at 60 per cent.
Although declining sperm output was a real issue in China, the statistical drop in sperm quality partly reflected China’s stricter quality standards compared with much of the world, Qi said.
“Because the cost of getting a sperm donation [in China] is quite high, [owing to] the physical and psychological check-ups, the compensation for donors, et cetera, the sperm banks need to make the most out of each sample,” Qi said. “They need much better quality semen than what is normally required to get a woman pregnant.”
Then what might have damaged men’s swimmers? Studies by researchers across the world have identified more than a dozen possible culprits.
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Professor Wang Guomin, an expert on the male reproductive system at Zhongshan Hospital in Shanghai, said chemicals, ionising radiation, heat, smoking and drinking are among the usual suspects.
“Amid rapid industrialisation, we are exposed to a great amount of chemicals in our daily life via the consumption of medicine, food, cosmetics and so on,” he said. These chemicals can disrupt the endocrine system – pertaining to the glands which secrete hormones or other products directly into the blood – or create a “genetic shift”.
Other possible sperm-killing pollutants come from the burning of waste, the widespread use of pesticide and the emission of industrial production – factors that have been linked to the onset of cancer, he said.
Infertility, a hardship experienced by both men and women, is increasingly arousing concern in China.
The official infertility rate for married couples in the country ranges from 10 per cent to 15 per cent now, compared with three per cent more than 20 years ago, according to studies by the Chinese Population Association.
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By contrast, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States has suggested infertility rates in the country may have declined between 1982 and 2010. The national public health institute found infertility affected 2.4 million women in 1982, compared with 1.53 million in 2010.
But Wang Wenjun, the deputy head of the reproductive centre of Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hospital in Guangzhou, said those figures did not accurately measure infertility growth in China.
“Two decades ago, we had far fewer medical resources and people didn’t go fix their infertility problems,” she said. “But in general we are seeing a growing infertility.”
Still, some experts criticise the validity of existing studies and falling sperm counts that suggest male infertility is increasing.
Wang Guomin, the Zhongshan Hospital male reproductive expert, said the widely quoted meta-analysis published a year ago in the journal Human Reproduction Update was based on old studies from different regions.
How to increase your sperm count and keep it up: lots of great sex, cold baths and garlic
The research likely contained either unmeasured variables or confounding factors that could have influenced the results, he said.
“To look at the issue more accurately, we should do new experiments specifically designed to test men’s semen for, say, 20 years, preferably on both sperm donors and men who have conceived within six months of trying,” he said.
Wang Wenjun, the Guangzhou reproductive expert, said even though the results may truly represent the health status of the general public, sperm counts in those studies were still well within the normal range, or sufficiently adequate to get a woman pregnant.
“Therefore, a decrease in sperm counts isn’t equal to a decline in male fertility,” she said.
This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Low birth rate, an ageing population … and now sperm counts are in decline