March 15, 2012
By Nancy Shute
“If you want to lower your sperm count, guys, eat at Burger King.” –KTRN
Men who eat a lot of fatty foods have lower quality sperm than men who avoid them, a new study found.
Saturated fat, the stuff in meat and dairy foods, was associated with lower sperm counts. The men eating the most saturated fat had 35 percent fewer sperm than men eating the least.
On the bright side, the men who ate more omega-3 fats — the kind found in fish and some plants — had slightly more sperm that were correctly formed than their brethren who ate less.
The results, though preliminary, suggest there’s something men can do to boost the odds their sperm are up to their evolutionary task: eat better.
“Men really have very few things that they can modify with regards to fertility,” says Jill Attaman, an assistant professor at Dartmouth Medical School, and a fertility specialist at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire. She was the lead author on the study, which was just published in Human Reproduction.
Scientists have only recently started looking at how lifestyle factors like diet and exercise affect men’s fertility. Known risks including smoking, heavy use of alcohol and recreational drugs, and heat on the testicles.
This study doesn’t say if the men’s diet caused the decline in sperm count. It just says they may be connected.
The 99 men in this study were all clients at fertility clinics. They filled out a questionnaire listing what they ate.
February 17, 2012
By Mike Barrett
“Have you done a heavy metal cleanse yet? No, we’re not talking about detoxing from Slayer – this is about lead and cadmium.” –KTRN
Cadmium and lead — two heavy metals that seemingly go hand and hand — are consistently being targeted as a threat to your health.
Higher blood levels of cadmium in females and higher blood levels of lead in males leads to infertility problems and delayed pregnancy, a new study has found.
These are the same contaminants now being found in common products like lipstick and low quality jewelry for children.
Lead, Cadmium Shown to Delay Pregnancy
The study, published online in Chemosphere, enrolled 501 couples from Michigan and Texas between 2005 to 2009. The women, aged 18-44, and the men, aged 18+, were followed for up to 1 year, or until pregnancy. Women were also asked to keep a journal to record monthly menstrual cycles and results of home pregnancy tests.
Using blood samples to find the participants’ blood concentration of the metals, the researchers found that the probability of pregnancy was 22 percent less for each increase in blood cadmium concentration for women. In men, the probability of conceiving was 16 percent less for each increase in blood lead concentration.
Our results indicate that men and women planning to have children should minimize their exposure to lead and cadmium…they can reduce cadmium exposure by avoiding cigarettes or by quitting if they are current smokers, especially if they intend to become pregnant in the future. Similarly, they can take steps to reduce their exposure to lead-based paints, which may occur in older housing, including during periods of home renovation,’ principal investigator Dr. Germaine Buck Louis, director of the division of epidemiology, statistics and prevention research at the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, said.
February 7, 2012
By Mike Barrett
“Here is yet another warning about the dangers of BPA.” –KTRN
Even small amounts of exposure to many chemicals can result in drastic negative health consequences – bisphenol-A (BPA) is no exception.
Found in many household goods such as plastic and some food items, BPA acts as an endocrine-disrupting chemical that mimics hormones in the body.
Due to the incredible negative effects BPA possesses, and given its prominent place in today’s society, scientist Frederick vom Saal thinks that this chemical should be banned completely.
For 20 years Saal has been on a quest to remove endocrine disrupting chemicals like BPA completely from daily use. The chemical is has been shown to adversely affect male genital development and therefore cause widespread fertility problems. In addition, there are more than 130 studies confirming the link between BPA and breast cancer.
Saal successfully generated dozens of scientific papers shedding light on the many negative effects of bisphenol-A, but now he is trying to persuade United States authorities to heavily regulate the use of the chemical.
Saal isn’t the only scientist looking to regulate the chemical, however. In September of 2011, a group of 20 scientists (of which Saal was a part) met to discuss why the Food and Drug Administration would ever allow such a harmful chemical in so many consumer products. While the research produced by many scientists was enough to persuade 11 states, Canada, China, and the European Union to restrict the allowance of endocrine-disrupting chemicals, it seems that U.S. government agencies aren’t so easy to convince.
December 8th, 2010
By: David Gutierrez
Organic farms have healthier soil than farms getting regular inputs of synthetic fertilizers, according to a study conducted by researchers from the Center for Ecology and Hydrology in England, and published in the journal Environmental Microbiology.
Researchers examined soil at nine English farms for the presence of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF), which increase the ability of plant roots to absorb soil nutrients and fight disease. They found a much higher concentration and diversity of AMF on organic farms than on non-organic farms.
“Nitrogen fertilizers often used in agriculture cause an accelerated mineralization of the soil’s organic reserves, thus a net loss of humus and a reduction in the soil’s fertility,” writes Marie-France Muller in her book Colloidal Minerals and Trace Elements.
Researcher Christopher van der Gast said that pesticides, herbicides and regular tilling of the soil all damage AMF and reduce the ecological diversity of farm soil.
“For most people it is about what you can see above ground,” he said. “But the below ground biodiversity of the organisms are also key. It is a missing factor that most people do not think about. Our research demonstrates that the way humans manage the landscape can play a key role in determining the distribution of microbial communities at both the local and regional scales.”
Rising fertilizer costs and an increasing concern for sustainability have led to a 10 percent increase in the use of compost across the United Kingdom over the past year.
“The work provides us with new understanding which we can use to promote these fungi in agricultural systems,” said researcher Gary Bending of the University of Warwick. “This in turn could improve crop production. With the proportion of the earth’s surface which is managed by humans increasing rapidly, this understanding is essential if we are to predict and manage microbial functioning in the environment to meet many of the major challenges faced by human society, such as food supply and the mitigation of climate change. Addressing these challenges, whilst maintaining environmentally sustainable agricultural practices, requires an understanding of microbial diversity.”
August 19, 2010
By: Jonathan Benson
Young men now have a new incentive to stay lean and fit. According to a new report in the journal Fertility and Sterility, overweight young men have poorer sperm quality than their peers of a more healthy weight do.
The findings reveal that not only do overweight men have lower sperm counts, but their sperm are less mobile and less able to travel in the right direction as opposed to simply swimming aimlessly. In other words, overweight men between the ages of 20 and 30 may have a much harder time becoming fathers than leaner, fitter men will.
For the study, Dr. Uwe Paasch and his team from the University of Leipzig in Germany analyzed more than 2,000 men who had visited fertility clinics between 1999 and 2005 to test their sperm quality. None of these men had any known fertility problems at the time.
Based upon the analysis, overweight men from this group had lower sperm counts than normal-sized men, but generally all the men were still in the “normal” range. However, this range is quite large, spanning between 20 and 150 million sperm per millimeter of semen, which may affect fertility.
Other studies suggest that the reason why overweight men have poorer sperm quality is due to imbalanced hormone levels caused by excess fat. Obese men can have levels of estrogen that are too high, while their testosterone levels are below normal levels. So it is important for men to maintain healthy body fat levels.
April 13, 2010
Better Health Research
By: Donna Parker
It may be a good idea for men to incorporate more omega-3 fatty acids into their diet as a new study is suggesting that a lack of the nutritional supplements could potentially lead to infertility.
According to researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, male infertility can be treated with omega-3 fatty acids. The scientists found that mice that were lacking docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), were basically infertile. However, upon introducing DHA to the mices’ diet, fertility was completely restored.
The body creates DHA from dietary acids that are found in omega-3 fatty acids, which is why adding more of the supplement to the diet could be beneficial to fertility.
“We get hints from looking at sperm in the DHA-deficient animals about what type of pathology we may be looking at and why these polyunsaturated fatty acids are important,” said Manabu Nakamura, a U of I associate professor of food science and human nutrition.
The scientists concluded that more research needs to be done in order to understand all of the benefits that come from the nutritional supplement. It has previously been discovered that omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial to heart health.
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March 16, 2010
By David Gutierrez
Large numbers of men who undergo treatment for testicular cancer suffer serious and long-term side effects or illness, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of Oslo and published in the journal BJUI.
In the past, the rate of long-term side effects has not been well known because doctors are only required to report side effects that require medical intervention or threaten the patient’s life.
“Current patients with testicular cancer should be informed about the risk of short-term and particularly long-term side-effects of their highly effective treatment” lead author Sophie D. Fossa said. “It is important to focus on reducing risks through healthy lifestyle choices and consider important issues like preserving future fertility.”
Reviewing 40 studies published between 1990 and 2008, the researchers found that a full 30 percent of patients undergoing cisplatin-based chemotherapy may suffer from damage to their sensory nerves, while 20 percent of testicular cancer survivors suffer from hearing loss or ringing in their ears. The rate of chronic fatigue in survivors is 17 percent, which is twice as high as in the general population. As many as 25 percent of survivors suffer long-term damage to their circulatory systems. Testicular cancer survivors also have 1.8 times the general risk of developing another form of cancer.
“Gastrointestinal side-effects are common during both chemotherapy and radiotherapy and chemotherapy carries added risks like infections and blood clots,” Fossa said. “Long-term problems include secondary cancers, heart problems, and conditions related to lower hormone levels.”
Testicular cancer treatments increase a man’s risk of pulmonary complications, death from heart complications, fertility reduction and dry ejaculation.
The best way to reduce the risk of dangerous side effects, Fossa said, is to maintain an active lifestyle and healthy weight, avoid tobacco, and for doctors to “provide adequate follow-up for patients who could develop life-threatening toxicity.”
Although side effects of cancer treatment can pose serious risks throughout a person’s lifetime, most patients receive only five to 10 years of follow-up care, at most.
February 8th, 2010
They found that a 40-year-old woman’s risk of having a child later diagnosed with autism was 50 percent greater than that of a woman between 25 and 29.
But being an older father — 40 or older — only contributes significantly to autism risk when the mother is under 30.
“The older the mother, the more the risk that the child will develop autism, regardless of whether the father is young or old,” said Irva Hertz-Picciotto of the University of California Davis MIND Institute, who worked on the study published in the journal Autism Research.
The findings contradict a 2006 study of children born in Israel that suggested paternal age played a much larger role.
“There has been a debate over whether it is maternal or paternal risk. A lot of people were thinking it’s not really mom’s age,” Hertz-Picciotto said in a telephone interview.
Researchers and policymakers are increasingly looking for causes to explain the growing numbers of children diagnosed with autism, which affects 1 percent of U.S. children.
There is no cure for autism, a spectrum of diseases ranging from severe and profound inability to communicate and mental retardation to relatively mild symptoms such as with Asperger’s syndrome.
The current study, which incorporates data on 4.9 million births and 12,159 autism cases in California, helps to clarify the contribution of age from both parents.
“We have such a very large database we were really able to disentangle the mother’s age very well,” Hertz-Picciotto said. This can be a challenge because older mothers and fathers tend to have children together.
“We found it does vary for the father, but not for the mother,” she said.
For example, among babies born to mothers under 25, children whose father was over 40 were twice as likely to develop autism as those whose father was between 25 and 29.
This could be because when both parents are older, the risk conferred by the father is outweighed by the risk from the mother, Hertz-Picciotto said.
She said the point of the study is not to blame parents, but to gain clues about what is going on in older parents that could increase a child’s risk of developing autism.
Older parents, for example, are more likely to have infertility problems and have used fertility treatments; the mothers are more likely to have autoimmune conditions, including gestational diabetes; and both have accumulated more toxins over their lifetimes, so the sperm and egg are more likely to have some changes that could increase risk.
“We see these age findings as clues for where to look next,” Hertz-Picciotto said.
Autism researchers are looking at a broad range of potential environmental factors, including household products, medical treatments, diet, food supplements and infections.
And the National Institute of Mental Health, one of the National Institutes of Health, is looking at potential genetic causes of autism and has plans to sequence the entire genomes of hundreds of children and their parents to gain a better understanding of the role genes play.
February 2, 2010
By S. L. Baker
So many US women have difficulty becoming pregnant that the fertility industry has become a huge business, raking in between three and five billion dollars a year. Now a new study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives raises the possibility that a lot of women who can’t have babies could have flame retardant chemicals to blame — specifically, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), which are commonly found in an alarming number of household consumer products.
In a study involving over 200 women, researchers at the University of California at Berkeley (UC Berkeley) discovered that women with higher blood concentrations of PBDEs took far longer to become pregnant than those with low amounts of the chemicals in their blood. In fact, for every ten-fold increase in blood levels of four PBDE chemicals tested, there was a 30 percent decrease in the odds a woman would conceive a child during a month.
“There have been numerous animal studies that have found a range of health effects from exposure to PBDEs, but very little research has been done in humans. This latest paper is the first to address the impact on human fertility, and the results are surprisingly strong. These findings need to be replicated, but they have important implications for regulators,” the study’s lead author, Kim Harley, said in a statement to the media. Harley is an adjunct assistant professor of maternal and child health and associate director of the Center for Children’s Environmental Health Research at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health.
PBDEs are a class of organobromine compounds found in foam furniture, electronics, fabrics, carpets, plastics and other common household items. They were commonly added to these and other products as flame retardants after the 1970s when new fire safety standards were implemented in the US.
So how big is the problem of homes contaminated by PBDEs? Unfortunately, it appears to be huge. The chemicals are known to leach out into the environment and accumulate in human fat cells. Previous studies have suggested that 97 percent of U.S. residents have detectable levels of PBDEs in their blood and that the levels in Americans are 20 times higher than in their counterparts in Europe.
The most prevalent form of PBDEs found in the blood of women participating in the UC Berkeley study were from a specific formulation known as a pentaBDE mixture. Both this kind of PBDE and another type, octaBDE, have been banned for use in several states — but they are still widely found in products manufactured before 2004.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finally got around to addressing the danger of PBDEs at the end of 2009. Did the agency issue an urgent alarm about products containing the chemicals — even ban them outright to protect consumers? No. Instead, the EPA quietly announced an agreement with three major manufacturers of some forms of PBDEs to phase out production by 2013. Unfortunately, this is clearly too little too late to protect countless Americans from the potential danger of these contaminants.
“Although several types of PBDEs are being phased out in the United States, our exposure to the flame retardants is likely to continue for many years,” said the study’s principal investigator, Brenda Eskenazi, UC Berkeley professor of epidemiology and of maternal and child health at the School of Public Health. “PBDEs are present in many consumer products, and we know they leach out into our homes. In our research, we have found that low-income children in California are exposed to very high levels of PBDEs, and this has us concerned about the next generation of Californians.”
What’s more, the scientists pointed out in the press statement that there’s reason to be concerned about additional chemical contaminants in the immediate future. True, PBDEs are being phased out from consumer products — but they are being replaced with other potentially toxic compounds. “We know even less about the newer flame retardant chemicals that are coming out,” said Dr. Harley. “We just don’t have the human studies yet to show that they are safe.”