Spermpocalypse Now?

From Reason

Are human beings about to become extinct due to falling sperm counts?

Ronald Bailey|Jul. 26, 2017 5:40 pm



The BBC headline blares, “Sperm count drop ‘could make humans extinct’.”

The story is based on a new systematic review and meta-regression analysis of recent trends in both sperm concentration and total sperm count. The study, published in Human Reproduction Update, reports “a significant decline in sperm counts…between 1973 and 2011, driven by a 50–60% decline among men unselected by fertility from North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.” By “unselected,” the authors basically mean young men who are screened for military service or college who are unlikely to be aware of their fertility status. (For example, the Danish military subjects its recruits to a compulsory medical examination that apparently includes measuring their sperm count and testes sizes.)

The meta-analysis encompassed the results of 185 studies involving 42,935 men from 50 countries on six continents who provided semen samples from 1973 to 2011. The researchers claim that their analysis tried to take into account confounding factors that lower sperm counts, including obesity, smoking, alcohol use, and stress. They report that sperm counts among unselected men living in rich developed countries fell from 99 million spermatozoa per milliliter in 1973 to 47 million per milliliter in 2011. Total sperm counts fell from 337.5 million to 137.5 million—a decline of nearly 60 percent.

On the other hand, the researchers found no decline in sperm counts among men living in South America, Asia, or Africa.

This not the first time a spermpocalypse has been declared. The claim was first made in 1992 article by Scandinavian researchers, who reported there had been a decline of nearly 50 percent in 50 years. Ever ready to fan the flames of panic, the publicists at Greenpeace quickly initiated a clever campaign of advertisements declaring, “You’re not half the man your father was.”

As the researchers acknowledge, their study tells us nothing about what caused the declines it identifies. Nevertheless, they speculate that it could be result of endocrine disruption from lifestyle changes and exposures to pesticides and synthetic chemicals. Endocrine disruption is the particular focus of one of the researchers, Shanna Swan, who teaches environmental medicine and public health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. This study will doubtlessly be cited in grant proposals for more funding for research on the toxicologically questionable endocrine disruption paradigm.

So the extinction of humanity due to falling sperm counts near at hand? Perhaps not. In a 2013 comprehensive review of 35 sperm quality studies published after 1992, New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical College fertility specialist Harry Fisch and a colleague looked into the trend data on sperm counts. The researchers reported that eight studies involving a total of 18,109 men suggest a decline in semen quality; 21 studies encompassing 112,386 men show either no change or an increase in semen quality; and six studies involving 26,007 men show ambiguous or conflicting results. The upshot, Fisch says, is that “allegations for a worldwide decline in semen parameter values have not withstood scientific scrutiny.” Asked if he stood by those findings, he replies, “Absolutely.”

Fisch suggests that despite their efforts to consider confounding effects, the researchers may have failed to adequately take into account the more or less reversible effects on sperm production associated with rising obesity, marijuana use, sedentary lifestyles, and testicular temperature.

Given that the World Health Organization finds that 15 million sperm per milliliter is considered normal and adequate for fertilization, headlines suggesting the imminent extinction of humanity seem a bit overwrought.

Full Story Here


120 thoughts on “Spermpocalypse Now?

    • Agreed, the study(s) problem is they are testing young military aged Millennials sperm that lack motivation. Why knock a girl up when you can sit in your parents basement playing computer. Ask a few of us old-timers we’d be happy to prove them wrong, no thanks required.

      • You missed out the FACT that any man getting married will face the possibility of the woman divorcing him at between 70-80%, plus get cleaned out by the family court if there are children involved.

      • If true, all it would take is for the men at Greenpeace to reduce their masturbation frequency.

      • Possible unexplored causal contributors: Soy formula for baby boys, low-fat or no-fat dairy which lacks all long-chain fatty acids necessary for normal cellular functioning, sugar and refined starches replacing fats and protein in the diet, endocrine disruptors in plastics, flame retardants and many food products, including once again the preponderance of soy (known to be loaded with phytoestrogens) in nearly all processed foods. People not living the “advanced” first-world “lifestyle” consuming these products are not affected.

      • +100….
        Yeah, 5 minutes of youthful self grat release doesn’t give sperm (or the woman) much stimulation to maintain the biology. Sign me up to the old-timers squad.

      • I am seeing a lot of blame on soy. I find that even more overstated than man-made global warming. It seems to me the main causes are more overweightness/obesity (known to reduce testosterone with a specific hormone mechanism known), sedentary lifestyle, and generally poorer diet. Most soy products in our diet are soybean oil, which has been in a lot of foods in recent decade. Like fats in general, soybean oil has 9 calories per gram, about 130 calories per tablespoon.

      • Yes, until they run out at in their late forties/early fifties. Until then, one (or more) per month. Afterwards, zero.

      • Only naturally, but I’ve seen claims that hormone-like chemicals in the modern world are messing up womens’ ovulation cycles.
        The crazy part is that, if these claims are true, they’re a much larger threat to the future of the human race than a couple of degrees of warming. In a sane world, governments would be far more worried by a declining birth-rate than by a possible small increase in temperature.

      • MarkG, It has become quite noticeable around here that many young girls are going through puberty at a much earlier age than in the past, some as early as 9 and 10 years old. I have seen claims that this is due to the many hormone-like chemicals that you mentioned. But, as far as I know, no one has yet been able to determined the cause.

      • That makes a certain amount of sense. I wouldn’t be surprised if evolution had programmed womens’ bodies to start breeding earlier when there’s plenty of food around.

      • I’d read many years ago, that the trigger was body mass, and since kids have been getting bigger for the last 100 years or so …

  1. “the researchers found no decline in sperm counts among men living in South America, Asia, or Africa.”
    ‘BBC headline blares, “Sperm count drop ‘could make humans extinct’.”’
    It seems that BBC doesn’t think that South America, Asia and Africa are populated by humans. Is that racism?

    • Have not seen you here before, absolutely great point, just proved the BBC sensationalism click-bait. Keep it up!

    • The areas with higher sperm counts (Asia, Africa, S. America) are areas with very few Volvos. Low sperm counts are in Caucasian areas with much greater numbers of Volvos.

    • Isn’t there more exposure to chemicals in Asia than the US? Where there is little regulation over them?

    • I assumed they were trying to scare Europeans into backing some ideology out of fear their daughters would marry “Indians”, Orientals, or (gasp!) Africans….
      VERY racist.

  2. Usually the reason for having a sperm count done is having a fertility issue. Just how much is later marriage and attempts at reproduction in Europe and the US etc related?

    • During the Vietnam War the U.S. Army issued us draftees boxer shorts which keep the testicles cooler than store-bought undershorts like Fruit-of-the-loom.

    • Low testosterone is probably a big problem. Between stress, obesity and lack of exercise, it would be no surprise if sperm production goes down.

    • It has to be making the femanotzis happy though. They have been trying for years to persuade other women and our culture in general that ‘manly men’ and their associated male competitiveness are the root of all evil in society.

  3. For the Good of the Race: The Plan has been known for a very long time.
    Dr. Strangelove: Well, that would not be necessary, Mr. President. It could easily be accomplished with a computer. And a computer could be set and programmed to accept factors from youth, health, sexual fertility, intelligence, and a cross-section of necessary skills. Of course, it would be absolutely vital that our top government and military men be included to foster and impart the required principles of leadership and tradition. Naturally, they would breed prodigiously, eh? There would be much time, and little to do. Ha, ha. But ah, with the proper breeding techniques and a ratio of say, ten females to each male, I would guess that they could then work their way back to the present Gross National Product within say, twenty years.
    Turgidson: Doctor, you mentioned the ratio of ten women to each man. Now, wouldn’t that necessitate the abandonment of the so-called monogamous sexual relationship, I mean, as far as men were concerned?
    Dr. Strangelove: Regrettably, yes. But it is, you know, a sacrifice required for the future of the human race. I hasten to add that since each man will be required to do prodigious…service along these lines, the women will have to be selected for their sexual characteristics which will have to be of a highly stimulating nature.

  4. Like everything that becomes a news item every five years, it’s probably crap.
    The first time I looked up the contradictory studies, and the second time, and I’m just assuming it’s bunk now.
    I have dug through so much bad science I can hardly stand it anymore.

  5. There are other ways to promote conception too,something the researchers seems oblivious on.

  6. I’ve made a model analysing the factors involved in this and it definitely shows that men who have a lower sperm count breathe out CO2.
    This is further evidence of the need to control people to save the planet.
    But it’s worse than that, since, as the article states. testicular temperature is a factor, increasing Global Warming will result in less viable sperm.
    To save the species and the (future) children, adult males should dunk their testicles in a glass of ice water at least twice per day, preferably just before engaging in sexual congress.

    • In case of double thinking, 1 + -1 = 2. Remember also the get-out-of-jail card, ‘could’.

  7. Sperm count? It didn’t take Global Warming to drop mine. I had my boys slaughtered to keep from being an old father of young children. I still have to prove I can’t get her pregnant, but I try!

  8. Presumably sperm counts for most men in their twenties are adequate, but drops off with age, so have your family when still young. You may later live to see your grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

    • It’s hard to have kids early when you’re both working a minimum-wage job with a $100k student loan.
      But yeah, there’s a lot of truth in that. Amongst other things, sperm production goes down as testosterone levels go down. There used to be a theory that testosterone declines as men age, and makes them fat and lazy, but the last study I saw said that men growing fat and lazy as they age is what causes most of the decline in testosterone.
      Then, of course, there’s bad diet on top, which may not contain enough of the nutrients that sperm need.

      • 100K student loan? Are students now days not told of work study programs, part time jobs, working summers in high school to pay tuition, working for a year or two and saving money for college, and such??

  9. Sampling is always an issue … “all members of the population have an equal probability of selection.” … I think not.

  10. “On the other hand, the researchers found no decline in sperm counts among men living in South America, Asia, or Africa.”
    No decline from what?
    It is very relevant to know what those sperm counts are. Are they saying that these other places have 99 million, and the selected countries are falling short, or is perhaps the excessive numbers seen in the past in the selected countries falling back to ‘natural levels’ as found, for example, in South America, Asia, or Africa?

  11. We’re supposed to have designer babies in the future, so Gattaca is coming true.

  12. Averages hide things. This is an average that is dropping. NEVER assume the average leads to a blanket result. Like people dying out, purely a scare story.
    Now this is something I know about. I was a donor. I’m well over the 100,000,000/ml line. Clearly I was not lowering the average. But the guys with zero or near zero were. In some cases, that was the result of high fever diseases. Others, other kinds of injury. In ancient times, many of them would not have survived to change the average. An average that means exactly zero to each particular guy.
    There are some broad chemical effects. Endocrin disruptors do exist and are in foods. Plasticizers in some plastics and can liners, for example. These get broadly into the environment, so sperm counts in wild animals are also dropping (top predators, like the Florida panther in particular). But we are getting them out of foods and packaging.
    Also, an “adrenaline rush” from danger raises testosterone levels (with the expected results). I liked jumping out of airplanes and riding motorcycles (but don’t let the “boys” vibrate too much as that can cause a drop in some duration motorcycle riders) “Metrosexuals” who worry about styling gel and were always protected from risk will not have the same hormonal jolts.
    All of these things interact in the individual, with individual results. However, as long as there are some “like me” the human race is not at risk of extinction. It is just a scare story.
    But any guy “with issues” can often change their numbers. Buy boxers, not tighty whiteys. Exercise a lot. Do something for an adrenaline rush (even just winning at basketball…) Avoid plasticizers. Eat more natural foods. And more things all have an effect. Oh, and avoid M.J. smoking… look up M.J. and “male breasts”
    It isn’t anything special, just living closer to an 1800s lifestyle.

    • I mean, come on ! — a first grader could figure this stuff out !
      If not, then a computer model could surely prove it.
      At the fluid dynamics level, what happens is that the increased ppm of co2 causes increased back diffusion of some of the sperm, causing testicles to heat up, thus frying some of the little suckers.

  13. It’s all that sitting to write grant proposals for research into human-caused climate change, especially wearing stylish, tight fitting underwear, which also tends to keep the temperature of this zone at a higher level than if standing or moving about.
    Or, it’s Gaia’s way of saying, “Enough babies already!”
    Don’t you just love the irony of a world of 7.5 billion living humans where somebody is suggesting human extinction due to low sperm count? … a world where Viagra ads clutter email junk mail boxes every single day? … a world where sexuality is promoted directly or indirectly every hour or every day?

    • … a world where women kill several million of their own yet unborn offspring, every single year…

  14. Greenpeace quickly initiated a clever campaign of advertisements declaring, “You’re not half the man your father was.”

    What? Is that why the first woman ever to direct Greenpeace requires a spare wheel?

  15. 2 things (now there’s a surprise!)
    It takes a *lot* of protein (proper protein as derived from eating animals) and energy (as derived from fat) to make a shot of cum.
    The fat must be saturated fat so that no ‘unsaturated’ double bonds get into ‘the works’ Those double bonds break open and behave exactly as nuclear radiation does – they set off a chain of free radicals that just go round smashing stuff up. Not what you want/need when baby-making
    The protein, as protein everywhere does, defines the form and function of whatever ‘thing’ it is part of. It forms the design-plan, the framework, the scaffolding, the re-bar of the living thing and defines the metabolic pathways.
    Humans are not build using the same structures/pathways, shape & form as potatoes, wheat, rice or corn.
    One third thing is (I lied and is very appropriate as obviously girls are involved) soya – its increasing part of human diets.
    Soya turns everything it touches into the female version of whatever.
    It is a massive source of (fake but still effective) oestrogen.
    It also destroys your memory. Your mind IOW, as if sugar wasn’t doing a fine enough job of that already.
    Just another little way that Mother Nature tries to warn us off from eating certain stuff.
    The plant protein, the plant sugar and the plant hormones. Don’t eat that sh1t.
    But of course, we are *so* clever, well educated and intelligent. We have super-computers projecting the future, floating windmills and Elon Musk.
    What could possibly go wrong?
    And we believe all that intelligence is what reduces birth rates in The West.
    Not the punitive taxes, a plant based diet or divorce lawyers?
    Not even a little bit?

    • Humans are omnivores. We can easily eat both plants and animals. What is hard to do is live on only plants. About 1/2 of my family is vegan / vegetarian and I can cook that way. Their health is good, BTW.
      BUT you must be knowledgeable of biochem and careful in getting the right stuff…
      In particular, essential fatty acids. Protein as an issue is vastly overrated. Fatty acids are where most folks have issues. But it is a very slow issue to show up. Fish oils are a great source (so fish historically called brain food, with good cause). The only good plant source is flax seed, and even there you need to eat a lot… which few people do. (So the vegetarians in my family take omega-3 supplements with essential HLA et.al. fatty acids).
      BTW, I did an all meat diet once to “support” a friend. It was harder than vegetarian to stick with.
      The western diet has way too much omega-6 unsaturated oils and not enough omega-3. Saturated fats are neutral in the balance. Historical primitive diets are about 1:1 ratio. Western plant oil heavy diets can be 10:1 or even 20:1 omega-6:omega-3 ratio. This causes all sorts of problems including inflammatory diseases (“Autoimmune disorders”). Grain fed meat makes this worse as grasses give more omega-3 in the animals that eat them and grains give more omega-6. So lamb and range fed beef are better for you, with wild fish best (fish fed on grain based farm “chow” are not high in the desired fatty acids).
      Concentrate on the metabolism of fatty acids and much makes sense. Proteins are more a distraction.

      • Why are your family members vegan? Is it a belief that meat /fish is bad for you or is it a moral issue re animals. Certainly, we have objective proof that meat and fish per se aren’t bad for you. Inuit did’t have much choice for ten thousand years – now they have bananas from Costa Rica, Twinkies, lasagna, white bread… I was a guest at dinner in Nain, Labrador expecting seal or caribou and was disappointed when they decided on spaghetti with beef sauce!
        Re omega3 fatty acids. If the motivation for vegetism is a moral one (although misguided in my opinion – a tiger isn’t immoral nor the Inuit) then I see a point to taking fatty acid supplements if they are plant or laboratory sourced. If not moral, then it is a fail of veg-only diet.

  16. Stick to global warming. If WUWT starts to become ‘anti’ everything it will become a joke.

    • Anthòny chooses the topics and may even consider your request.
      I’m all for democracy, civil/human rights, rule of law, photosynthesis, biosphere, mutually beneficial collaboration, global wealth and warming, but need help in finding the ‘anti’ in it.

      • Well, you have become a CAGW stooge…only looking at “massaged” data. You get paid for that?

      • Of course WUWT is anti-everything simply because global warming causes EVERYTHING!

      • ‘Everything’ isn’t corrupted yet, but without countervailing pressure from the likes of WUWT we would now be under clintonesque/Soros rule from Geneva or Davos.
        I liked your independent contributions a lot before you were ensnared in the dubious business of BEST which circumscribed your range. Truly you are a different person from the one who analysed climategate so well and your forensic work on Glieck was a classic. Alas, this stuff is out of bounds for you now. A good rejoinder to your unfair “become (anti-everything)? ” would have been “nothing?” Presumably you think the sperm decline research is just fine?

      • The original statement was, “If WUWT starts to become ‘anti’ everything it will become a joke.” This overstates the case by using the all-encompassing word “everything.” A sarcastic reply to such an overstatement can play off that statement as well.

      • sorry, I looked at only raw data from ICOADS and GHCN Daily, long long before and after I started to volunteer for berkeley earth.
        Started with raw data in 2008, preety much all the work I do personally is in raw data.
        Raw data shows more warming.

      • “Steven Mosher July 29, 2017 at 9:14 pm
        Raw data shows more warming.”
        Where is the raw data?

    • WUWT covers all bases. Faux science alarmism is very versatile and CAGW now in irreversible decline will be replaced. The larger picture is important. “Progressives” don’t care about the science per se their elitist world governance will find other fake issues to win the day. They are indefatigable and in their world view the end justifies the mean.

    • WUWT covers all bases. Faux science alarmism is very versatile and CAGW now in irreversible decline will be replaced. The larger picture is important. “Progressives” don’t care about the science per se – their elitist world governance will find other fake issues to win the day. They are indefatigable and in their world view the end justifies any means.

    • “Stick to global warming. If WUWT starts to become ‘anti’ everything it will become a joke.”
      over time every science site deteriorates as the class clowns take over.

  17. Another problem is the contamination of waterways and water by oestrogens, which feminise fish and presumably men who drink ore bathe in it.
    Dr Susan Jobling, from the research team, said: ‘There are very real reasons to be worried about whether male reproductive health could also be affected.’
    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-105466/Fertility-timebomb-drinking-water.html#ixzz4oAFTT1uG
    Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

  18. Seems the researchers are not entirely correct.
    Chaps in Japan have their problems as well……as bad as the worst of the worst
    And Brazilians, Tunisians and Chinese…
    And dogs..
    That’s human and dog overpopulation sorted

  19. Reminds me of a movie from the 70’s/80’s, in a post “disaster” world, society moved underground. A surface walker with his, telepathic dog, is somehow “captured” and “milked” for his genetic seed as the sub-
    terrain colony were in need of new genetic material.

  20. The elephant you’all are missing is soy products. Soy contains estrogen. Where would there most likely be more soy containing foods consumed? Where would there be less consumed? Men need to go back to eating meat and stop eating anything with soy protein.

    • A lot of animals headed for slaughter contain administered antibiotics and hormones too.

      • In Australia antibiotics, such as enrofloxacin and tetracyclines, but not hormones.
        Some poultry suppliers advertise that their chooks are hormone free, but this is a carnard.
        Its illegal to caponise chooks in Australia, so there are no hormones added to chooks here.
        The consumer is misled that this is an advantage in buying those chooks.
        A couple of years ago anabolics were placed on the S8 register so are hard to come by.
        Its unlikely they are used in cattle.

  21. Um, why does the Danish military subject its recruits to a “compulsory medical examination that apparently includes measuring their sperm count and testes sizes”? I thought the whole idea of being in the military was to make war, not love.

    • You obviously don’t know what ALL goes on during war. Read between the lines of II Samuel chapter 11. … in the spring when kings go to war …

  22. RAW data probably not available. Every study I’ve ever seen like this, the data necessary to question the conclusion is basically not available. Supposed I wanted to correlate total sperm count to height. Height has been going up in the developed countries but not in undeveloped. Then the headline could read “tall men going extinct”. Instead, I just have to take their word for things.
    It’s like the false reproducibility crisis. In the reproducibility studies you can never examine the methods or results for the reproduced experiments, because reasons ……
    My position is, NO RAW DATA = NO CREDIBILITY !!!!

  23. This issue is a real threat. “extinct” no.
    Atrazine is an herbicide used mostly on corn. It’s also getting into our water supply. Does disrupt both male and female hormones.
    This girl (The Truth Factory) did a nice video on it. (get past the cat avatar she really did a good job)

  24. Another example of a story that must have had a $50 bill stapled to it to get printed here.
    Not climate science.
    A magnet for stupid jokes that make the website seem smarmy.
    If Mr. Watts was not currently sitting on a bar stool surrounded by native girls,
    I think he would be very upset by the declining standards of articles published here.

    • You presumably missed the part where the site is about “News and commentary on puzzling things in life, nature, science, weather, climate change, technology, and recent news by Anthony Watts”

    • Automatically spewing out motivation (paid $50) that reveals your own proclivities (and possibly your price) is typical ‘progressive’ ‘ends justifies the means’ bread and butter for a faux world view (even a ‘view’ to be legitimate requires something possibly rooted in reality) . Still, you do come to this site which elevates you mightily above the mass majority of your kind that needs safe places in the face of disrupting disagreement (the 97%?) , new viewpoints and criticism. Suspend belief a bit, consider the different views to your own, and at least, you will become a better foil to WUWT stuff. Party line stuff can get exciting in self congratulatory situations, but incisive disagreement with stuff here gets a good reading and mixed response at least. Many here who are scientifically literate, or at least require a logical base, are converted believers in serious CAGW simply because of failure of the the theory and dishonest fiddling (revisit ‘world view’ remarks).

      • Gray Pierce
        What are you bloviating
        about in your attack?
        Please translate your rant into english so I can understand your point, assuming you had one.

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