Health

Low Sperm Count: Here Are Some Health Problems That Could Be The Cause

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Sperm count dropping? A study presented today at ENDO 2018 shows some possible causes. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Dori in Finding Nemo once sang, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.” But if you don’t have enough swimmers that may be an indication of a larger health problem, according to&nbsp;research from the University of Padova in Italy presented today at ENDO 2018, the Endocrine Society’s 100th annual meeting in Chicago, Illinois.

In this case, swimmers mean sperm and not Michael Phelps. Most people do not have enough Michael Phelps. Alberto Ferlin, M.D., Ph.D., who is now at the University of Brescia but was formerly at the University of Padova, led a study of&nbsp;5,177 male partners of infertile couples in Italy. These men underwent physical exams and a variety of laboratory tests, including sperm analyses. The research team defined&nbsp;low sperm count as having less than 39 million sperm per ejaculate. In the study,&nbsp;compared to those who were above this threshold, men who&nbsp;fell below this threshold were&nbsp; 1.2 times more likely to have:

  • A&nbsp;larger waistline
  • Higher body mass index (BMI)
  • Higher systolic blood pressure
  • Higher “bad” (LDL) cholesterol and triglycerides
  • Lower “good” (HDL) cholesterol
  • Metabolic syndrome: which the Mayo Clinic defines as “a cluster of conditions — increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels — that occur together, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.”
  • Insulin resistance

About half of the men in the study had low sperm counts. Those who fell below the threshold were also&nbsp;12-times more likely to have low testosterone levels (otherwise known as hypogonadism). Half of those with low testosterone levels also had either osteoporosis or low bone mass on a bone density scan.

Does this mean that the key to preventing these health problems is just getting more sperm? No, that would be a very gross misinterpretation of the study results, in many ways. Such a conclusion would be like saying that you just need to rename yourself Michael Phelps to win a Gold Medal in swimming. It is important to understand what is the chicken and what is the egg in this problem and that the sperm is probably neither the chicken nor the egg in this situation.&nbsp;Getting more testosterone is not necessarily the solution either, even though some commercials may try to convince you that giving you more testosterone will cure all sorts of things.

What’s more likely happening is that the health problems such as obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes are either causing or associated with metabolic abnormalities. These metabolic abnormalities then may be contributing to low testosterone. In turn, the low testosterone may be leading to low sperm counts.

This is yet more evidence that having obesity and being overweight are more complex than many realize. They aren’t simply appearance issues and equivalent to wearing more padding. They can either cause or&nbsp;be caused by complex metabolic problems.

Yes, there are other causes of low sperm count, such as excessive Jacuzzi use. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Of course, just because you have a low sperm count, doesn’t mean that you have a metabolic problem. Just like having a team of people named Michael Phelps alone won’t guarantee Olympic Gold medals. There are many other different causes of a low sperm count, ranging from genetics to stress to not enough exercise to alcohol use to too tighty-whitey underwear to overheating of your testicles from excessive Jacuzzi use to infections to environmental and chemical exposures.&nbsp;However, if you’ve ruled out causes such as sitting in a Jacuzzi for 8 hours a day or wearing underwear that is three sizes too small, make sure you see your doctor and your doctor evaluates all of you, including your waistline, BMI, blood pressure, and lipids.

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Sperm count dropping? A study presented today at ENDO 2018 shows some possible causes. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Dori in Finding Nemo once sang, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.” But if you don’t have enough swimmers that may be an indication of a larger health problem, according to research from the University of Padova in Italy presented today at ENDO 2018, the Endocrine Society’s 100th annual meeting in Chicago, Illinois.

In this case, swimmers mean sperm and not Michael Phelps. Most people do not have enough Michael Phelps. Alberto Ferlin, M.D., Ph.D., who is now at the University of Brescia but was formerly at the University of Padova, led a study of 5,177 male partners of infertile couples in Italy. These men underwent physical exams and a variety of laboratory tests, including sperm analyses. The research team defined low sperm count as having less than 39 million sperm per ejaculate. In the study, compared to those who were above this threshold, men who fell below this threshold were  1.2 times more likely to have:

  • A larger waistline
  • Higher body mass index (BMI)
  • Higher systolic blood pressure
  • Higher “bad” (LDL) cholesterol and triglycerides
  • Lower “good” (HDL) cholesterol
  • Metabolic syndrome: which the Mayo Clinic defines as “a cluster of conditions — increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels — that occur together, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.”
  • Insulin resistance

About half of the men in the study had low sperm counts. Those who fell below the threshold were also 12-times more likely to have low testosterone levels (otherwise known as hypogonadism). Half of those with low testosterone levels also had either osteoporosis or low bone mass on a bone density scan.

Does this mean that the key to preventing these health problems is just getting more sperm? No, that would be a very gross misinterpretation of the study results, in many ways. Such a conclusion would be like saying that you just need to rename yourself Michael Phelps to win a Gold Medal in swimming. It is important to understand what is the chicken and what is the egg in this problem and that the sperm is probably neither the chicken nor the egg in this situation. Getting more testosterone is not necessarily the solution either, even though some commercials may try to convince you that giving you more testosterone will cure all sorts of things.

What’s more likely happening is that the health problems such as obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes are either causing or associated with metabolic abnormalities. These metabolic abnormalities then may be contributing to low testosterone. In turn, the low testosterone may be leading to low sperm counts.

This is yet more evidence that having obesity and being overweight are more complex than many realize. They aren’t simply appearance issues and equivalent to wearing more padding. They can either cause or be caused by complex metabolic problems.

Yes, there are other causes of low sperm count, such as excessive Jacuzzi use. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Of course, just because you have a low sperm count, doesn’t mean that you have a metabolic problem. Just like having a team of people named Michael Phelps alone won’t guarantee Olympic Gold medals. There are many other different causes of a low sperm count, ranging from genetics to stress to not enough exercise to alcohol use to too tighty-whitey underwear to overheating of your testicles from excessive Jacuzzi use to infections to environmental and chemical exposures. However, if you’ve ruled out causes such as sitting in a Jacuzzi for 8 hours a day or wearing underwear that is three sizes too small, make sure you see your doctor and your doctor evaluates all of you, including your waistline, BMI, blood pressure, and lipids.

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