April 2007 Blog Archive
Monday, April 30, 2007
Why Dad's Habits Matter, Too
Two thirds of the time, the man is a contributing-if not the sole-explanation for a couple's infertility, according to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine. After a man hits 35, the amount and quality of his sperm decrease, which can lead to both difficulty conceiving and a higher risk of miscarriage. There's no turning back the clock, but men, like women, can take steps to slow it down:-- Get to a fighting weight.
A study published last year found that moderately overweight men who have a body mass index of 26 to 28 (the equivalent of carrying about 175 to 205 pounds on a 5-foot, 9-inch frame) were 50 percent more apt to be infertile than men at a healthy weight. Obese men had an even greater risk. Excess fat may increase the temperature of the scrotum, reducing sperm quality, and also raise levels of estrogen, lowering sperm counts. Being underweight creates a shortage of testosterone, which affects sperm production as well. Aim for a BMI of 19 to 25 (or about 130 to 170 pounds if you're 5 foot 9). -- Check your diet.
You may want to temporarily limit your soy intake to once or twice a week. Tofu, soybeans, miso soup, and soy milk contain estrogenlike chemicals that in some animal studies seemed to lower sperm counts. Watch out, too, for fish with high levels of fertility-inhibiting mercury, advises Columbia University male fertility expert Harry Fisch. -- Turn down the heat.
Since excessive heat can lower sperm counts, men planning to conceive should stay away from the sauna and hot tub. And they should take the laptop off their laps; the heat given off can be damaging, too, according to a 2005 study in the Journal of Urology. Boxers instead of briefs? The verdict is out, but some experts worry that wearing spandex during a workout can trap heat and reduce sperm counts. (A common cause of male infertility, a heat-trapping bundle of engorged veins in the scrotum called a varicocele, is treatable with minor surgery.) -- Stay clean.
Performance-enhancing pills that contain DHEA, THG, andro, or other steroidlike substances can interfere with sperm production; and smoking, recreational drugs, and alcohol can damage sperm. So you're better off saying no.
Published online in U.S. News & World Report, By Deborah Kotz, Posted 4/29/07. This story will appear in the May 7, 2007 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.