HealthWrap: Modern life kills sperm

By KATE WALKER, UPI Correspondent   |   Oct. 24, 2006 at 1:09 PM
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LONDON, Oct. 24 (UPI) -- While it has long been acknowledged that the props of modern life can be detrimental to one's emotional health, it emerged this week that two commonplace additions -- anti-depressants and the cell phone -- appear to negatively impact male fertility.

A study conducted by Ohio's Cleveland Clinic found that the sperm counts of heavy mobile-phone users -- defined as four hours a day or more -- were 40 percent lower than those who used cell phones infrequently or not at all.

The research examined 361 men who were about to begin fertility treatment and were having their sperm analyzed for that purpose.

In addition to having lower sperm counts, the researchers found, the quality of the sperm of heavy cell-phone users was also diminished. Men who were moderate mobile-phone users also saw a loss is sperm count, although the lowered levels were less dramatic.

Dr. Ashok Agarwal, who led the research, told The Times of London that he believed the electromagnetic fields generated by cell phones were responsible for the diminished sperm count.

"People use mobile phones without thinking twice what the consequences may be," he said. "It is just like using a toothbrush, but mobiles could be having a devastating effect on fertility."

However, other experts have dismissed the possibility of a cell phone, which is operated at skull-height, affecting the production of sperm.

Anne Clark, of the Fertility Society of Australia, told the Herald Sun: "It is a bit of a stretch, especially when you're talking about electromagnetic forces traveling from the mobile to the scrotum."

Clark, instead, thinks that lifestyle factors associated with mobile-phone use are behind the noted drop in sperm counts.

"Someone who is always glued to their phone is also more likely to be someone in a high pressure office job, potentially a heavier drinker, smoker and someone who's overweight.

"It's these guys that hang out in smoky bars, stressed and crunched up on their scrotum talking on the phone."

At New York's Cornell Medical Center, meanwhile, scientists examining two patients found a link between anti-depressants and reduced sperm counts that begs further investigation.

When treating both men for infertility, the researchers found that their low sperm counts recovered when not taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) to counteract depression, and fell accordingly when the treatment was resumed.

Peter Schlegel, who presented the research to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine conference in New Orleans, where the cell-phone research was also presented, said: "The patients had normal sperm counts and motility before medication. On the medication they have severe deterioration of both. The same patients going on and off medication had the same pattern. It shows a strong association."

The small study group means that the link must be explored further before being labeled concrete, but a clinical trial of 30 men has since begun, and results are expected in the not-too-distant future.


While no one should need convincing of the benefits of a healthy and varied diet loaded with vegetables, new research has given parents additional ammunition to use against vegetable-shy children.

According to a six-year study involving nearly 2,000 men and women ages 65 and over from the Chicago area, a diet rich in vegetables works to keep the brain young and slow the onset of senile dementia.

Participants whose daily diet included at least two vegetables were found to be mentally sharper and better equipped for dealing with cognitive tasks than those whose diets included little or no vegetables. At the end of the six years, older participants with a vegetable-rich diet were found to have brains five years younger than their vegetable-shy counterparts.

Dr. Meir Stampfer of Harvard's School of Public Health, who did not participate in the research, told "This is a sound paper and contributes to our understanding of cognitive decline. The findings specific for vegetables and not fruit add further credibility that this is not simply a marker of a more healthful lifestyle."

Some vegetables were found to be better than others -- the very vegetables our departments of health urge us to include in our diets on a more regular basis: spinach, collard greens, kale and other green leafy vegetables rich in vitamin E.

While a healthy diet is rich in both fruit and vegetables, fruit did not appear to have as great an effect on mental agility, probably due to the lower levels of vitamin E.


It should come as surprise to no one that being of a healthy weight is better for you.

Now, adding to the mounting evidence that being of a healthy weight improves one's chances of surviving cancer comes a study showing that skin-cancer survivability is also linked with weight.

Researchers from New Jersey's Rutgers University studied mice with a non-melanoma form of skin cancer and found that thinner mice were better equipped to fight the disease.

The means of achieving slenderness seemed irrelevant, the researchers found -- in some animals, fat was removed surgically, while others were given wheels and encouraged to exercise; in both groups, the levels of dead cancer cells were higher than in the heavier mice.

Dr. Allan Conney, who led the research, said, "Our results help explain why exercise or various dietary regimens that decrease tissue fat inhibit carcinogenisis."

In the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, his team wrote: "The results of our studies suggest that fat cells secrete substances that inhibit apoptosis in cells with DNA damage, and possibly also in tumors."

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