Home > Public Health > AIIMS finds drastic reduction in sperm count of Indian males over three decades

AIIMS finds drastic reduction in sperm count of Indian males over three decades

August 29, 2012

Varun and Priya Gupta (names changed) had failed to have a child even after six years of marriage. A visit to a fertility expert, however, came as a shocker for Varun, who had blamed his wife for failing to conceive.
Varun’s semen analysis test showed he suffered from oligospermia (low sperm count). He was advised either intra cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) or assisted reproductive technology (ART).


It is a common misconception that low sperm count is a corollary to deflated libido. Doctors say there is no connection between a man’s sexual drive and low sperm count. All men with lower sperm count are not likely to have lower libido due to lower testosterone. “A man with high libido or sex drive may suffer low sperm count. The two aren’t connected,” said fertility expert Sonia Malik.
More and more Indians are suffering both reduced sperm count and sub-optimal sperm quality. Health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad had said on Friday studies were showing that not only is infertility increasing among Indian men, their sperm count and sperm quality, too, are taking a beating due to “xenobiotics emanating from chemical industries”.
 AIIMS doctors had earlier found that while the sperm count of a normal Indian adult used to be 60 million per ml three decades ago, now it is around 20 million per ml. Over 12-18 million couples in India are diagnosed with infertility every year.
Tanya Buckshee Rohatgi, fertility expert from Max Hospital, says there appears to be a global decline in semen quality and a host of influences like environmental exposure, nutritional, behavioural or genetic factors seemed to be the cause. Proposed behavioural factors include a rise in obesity, diabetes and overall poor health and unfitness in men or factors lumped under the umbrella term ‘urban lifestyle’.
“Though only one sperm is needed to fertilize an egg, several studies have shown its fertilizing ability starts diminishing if sperm concentration is below 15m per ml or if the percentage of normal spermatozoa is below 5% (an average ejaculation contains about 66 million per ml). However, men can produce new sperm every 68-74 days and in case of an abnormal sperm test it should be repeated to confirm the results. On the contrary, women are born with a fixed egg number, which declines with age, especially after 35 years,” Rohatgi said.
Rohatgi says men with low sperm counts are often advised to abstain from sex to improve sperm count. But research suggests too much abstinence can damage the DNA (genetic make-up) of the sperm that is produced.
Malik says the main cause of male infertility is faulty sperm count, and has no reflection on sexual prowess. “Sometimes men with testicular problems may have very low sperm count. Antioxidants have a very good effect on testis. We tell our patients they must have lot of fruits and green vegetables in their diet which is high on anti-oxidants,” she said.
A study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (US) found that a healthy intake of micronutrients is associated with improved sperm DNA quality in older men. In an analysis of 80 healthy male volunteers aged 22-80, scientists found that men older than 44 who consumed most vitamin C had 20% less sperm DNA damage compared to those in the same age group but consumed least vitamin C.


Categories: Public Health
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