New research from the United States has found that men produce better sperm in the spring and autumn, although the reasons for this remain unclear. A big study analysed sperm samples from more than 29,000 men over a period of 17 years, and found that there were more moving sperm in the spring and more normally-shaped sperm in the autumn.
The researchers, from Icahn School of Medicine in Mount Sinai in New York presented their research at the annual conference of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine in Denver. They have suggested that the milder weather might have something to do with this as the sperm will stay cool but men are likely to be more physically active and that they may be less likely to be drinking too much alcohol than in the summer or at Christmas. As it takes three months to produce sperm, it is not entirely clear what the causes may be – but the researchers make it clear that more research is needed to be able to confirm that their findings would have an impact on the chances of a successful pregnancy at different times of year.
They are often thought to be the safer version of smoking – but new research has found that the flavourings used in e-cigarettes may contain toxic chemicals which can damage men’s sperm.
A team from University College London found that two of the most popular flavours put into e-cigarettes were particularly damaging to sperm – bubblegum and cinnamon were both found to affect male fertility. You can read more details about their research, which was presented at the Fertility 2017 Conference earlier this month, here
There’s no shortage of advice for women about what they ought to eat – and ought not to eat – when they’re trying to conceive, but two new studies show that male diet is important too.
Two separate research teams looked at the effect of diet on sperm, and concluded that what a man eats can have an impact on his offspring. One team studied the effect of a high fat diet and the other a low protein diet and although they used mice for their work, researchers believe that the results in humans are likely to be similar.
When the male mice were fed a high fat diet, their offspring’s resistance to insulin and glucose intolerance were affected. When they were fed a low protein diet, the researchers reported changes to the genes that are responsible for the development of stem cells. The two papers were both published in the journal Science and you can read more about them here
We always hear about the need for women to maintain a healthy weight for reproduction, but new evidence from Denmark shows that information relating to a man’s weight is passed to his children in his sperm and that this could make them more likely to be obese themselves.
The researchers tested the sperm of obese men who were going through weight-loss surgery and found that there were changes in their sperm afterwards. The changes they found in the sperm were linked to the genes which relate to appetite control and brain development.
This was a very small study so would need more research, but it does suggest that it really is important for men to do all that they can to keep fit and healthy when they are trying to conceive. You can find the summary of the article, published in the Journal Cell Metabolism, here.
A fascinating new theory about how sperm attach themselves to eggs has been put forward by researchers from the School of Medicine at the University of Virginia. They think that the sperm may harpoon the eggs using small spiky filaments to tie themselves together. Apparently it’s a protein in the sperm head which forms the filaments, and the scientists believe they are involved in helping the sperm to penetrate the egg.
This theory, which was published in the scientific journal Andrology, is the result of many years of research – and you can read all about the background to the discovery here.
If you’ve been trying to conceive for a while, you may think you know all you could possibly need to know about sperm and eggs and how they meet- but I’d really recommend this brilliant article by Professor Allan Pacey from the University of Sheffield titled ‘The Journey of the Sperm’.
It’s really clearly explained and easy to understand – but is also absolutely fascinating for anyone interested in conception. Have a look – see what you think! You can find it here
You may have heard the idea mooted a week or so ago by a bioethicist from Dundee, Dr Kevin Smith, who suggested that all young men should be considering freezing sperm as young as 18 as leaving it until later to try to have a child meant that they were more likely to build up mutations. He said the NHS should fund this and claimed it was a practical idea as the children of older fathers were more likely to suffer from genetic diseases.
If you’ve been worrying about this – whether you’re an “older” man or the partner of one – you may be relieved to know that one of the country’s leading sperm experts, Professor Allan Pacey of Sheffield University, described it as “crackers” and one of the most ridiculous suggestions he’d heard in a long time. He said any risks for older men becoming fathers were small and would usually affect those who were over the age of 45. He also made the point that not all sperm will freeze well anyway.
So, really no need to worry – but if you are interested, you can read more here
Researchers from the University of Southern Denmark have suggested that sleeping badly may be linked to male fertility problems. They looked at the sleep patterns of more than 900 Danish men and found that those who had less than six hours sleep a night or suffered from disturbed sleep were more likely to have a poor quality sperm.
Before you dash off to the sleep clinic, what the team don’t know is whether improving sleep patterns for these individuals would lead to an improvement in sperm quality. You might also be reassured by comments on this story in the Daily Mail from Dr Allan Pacey, a leading UK expert on the subject, who said that men should not be worried by this research as it was unlikely that poor sleep would have a major impact on fertility
With National Fertility Awareness Week starting tomorrow, I thought I’d start thinking about baking for the cake bake – you can find some pictures of people’s cakes on Twitter using the hashtags #NFAWUK and #BunsInTheOven….
Anyway, I remembered last year people making some really amazing egg and sperm shaped cakes, and thought I’d have a look online to see how they might have made them – I should have guessed it was a stupid idea, but it didn’t cross my mind for one second that anyone would seriously make cakes using sperm and then post the recipes online… Who was to know that semen was not only “nutritious” but also had a “wonderful texture and amazing cooking properties”? You can even buy a book of semen-based recipes…
I think maybe I’ll forget the novelty cakes and go back to a simple Victoria sponge…