What Are Sperm Telling Us?

What Are Sperm Telling Us?

Scientists are concerned by falling sperm counts and declining egg quality. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals may be the problem.

Something alarming is happening between our legs.

Sperm counts have been dropping; infant boys are developing more genital abnormalities; more girls are experiencing early puberty; and adult women appear to be suffering declining egg quality and more miscarriages.

It’s not just humans. Scientists report genital anomalies in a range of species, including unusually small penises in alligators, otters and minks. In some areas, significant numbers of fish, frogs and turtles have exhibited both male and female organs.

Four years ago, a leading scholar of reproductive health, Shanna H. Swan, calculated that from 1973 to 2011, the sperm count of average men in Western countries had fallen by 59 percent. Inevitably, there were headlines about “Spermageddon” and the risk that humans would disappear, but then we moved on to chase other shiny objects.

Now Swan, an epidemiologist at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, has written a book, “Count Down,” that will be published on Tuesday and sounds a warning bell. Her subtitle is blunt: “How our modern world is threatening sperm counts, altering male and female reproductive development, and imperiling the future of the human race.”

Swan and other experts say the problem is a class of chemicals called endocrine disruptors, which mimic the body’s hormones and thus fool our cells. This is a particular problem for fetuses as they sexually differentiate early in pregnancy. Endocrine disruptors can wreak reproductive havoc.

These endocrine disruptors are everywhere: plastics, shampoos, cosmetics, cushions, pesticides, canned foods and A.T.M. receipts. They often aren’t on labels and can be difficult to avoid.

“In some ways, the sperm-count decline is akin to where global warming was 40 years ago,” Swan writes. “The climate crisis has been accepted — at least by most people — as a real threat. My hope is that the same will happen with the reproductive turmoil that’s upon us.”

Chemical companies are as reckless as tobacco companies were a generation ago, or as opioid manufacturers were a decade ago. They lobby against even safety testing of endocrine disruptors, so that we have little idea if products we use each day are damaging our bodies or our children. We’re all guinea pigs.

Aside from the decline in sperm counts, growing numbers of sperm appear defective — there’s a boom in two-headed sperm — while others loll aimlessly in circles, rather than furiously swimming in pursuit of an egg. And infants who have had greater exposures to a kind of endocrine disruptor called phthalates have smaller penises, Swan found.

Uncertainty remains, research sometimes conflicts and biological pathways aren’t always clear. There are competing theories about whether the sperm count decline is real and what might cause it and about why girls appear to be reaching puberty earlier, and it’s sometimes unclear whether an increase in male genital abnormalities reflects actual rising numbers or just better reporting.

Still, the Endocrine Society, the Pediatric Endocrine Society, the President’s Cancer Panel and the World Health Organization have all warned about endocrine disruptors, and Europe and Canada have moved to regulate them. But in the United States, Congress and the Trump administration seemed to listen more to industry lobbyists than to independent scientists.

Patricia Ann Hunt, a reproductive geneticist at Washington State University, has conducted experiments on mice showing that the impact of endocrine disruptors is cumulative, generation after generation. When infant mice were exposed for just a few days to endocrine disrupting chemicals, their testes as adults produced fewer sperm, and this incapacity was transmitted to their offspring. While findings from animal studies can’t necessarily be extended to humans, after three generations of these exposures, one-fifth of the male mice were infertile.

“I find this particularly troubling,” Professor Hunt told me. “From the standpoint of human exposures, you could argue we are hitting the third generation just about now.”

What if anything does all this mean for the future of humanity?

“I do not see humans becoming extinct, but I do see family lines ending for a subset of people who are infertile,” Andrea Gore, a professor of neuroendocrinology at the University of Texas at Austin, told me. “People with impaired sperm or egg quality cannot exercise their right to choose to have a child. That may not devastate our species, but it is certainly devastating to these infertile couples.”

More research is necessary, and government regulation and corporate responsibility are crucial to manage risks, but Swan offers practical suggestions for daily life for those with the resources. Store food in glass containers, not plastic. Above all, don’t microwave foods in plastic or with plastic wrap on top. Avoid pesticides. Buy organic produce if possible. Avoid tobacco or marijuana. Use a cotton or linen shower curtain, not one made of vinyl. Don’t use air fresheners. Prevent dust buildup. Vet consumer products you use with an online guide like that of the Environmental Working Group.

Many issues in headlines today won’t much matter in a decade, let alone in a century. Climate change is one exception, and another may be the risks to our capacity to reproduce.

The epitome of a “low blow” is a kick to the crotch. And that, friends, may be what we as a species are doing to ourselves.

Contributor: Nicholas Kristof-NY Times

6 Ways Drinking Green Tea Can Add Years to Your Life, According to Science

6 Ways Drinking Green Tea Can Add Years to Your Life, According to Science

Regular consumption of green tea could increase your lifespan in multiple ways.

Green tea is widely acknowledged as being good for your health. And as more researchers take a close look at the effects of drinking green tea—as well as the compounds and molecules in it that have beneficial interactions with our bodies—there’s an increasing body of evidence that green tea can help us live longer

As we’re continuously uncovering new ways in which green tea helps keep us healthy, it’s easy to question if there is such a thing as too much green tea. Many studies show that drinking between five and ten cups a day—which is a lot of green tea—can actually decrease your risk for a number of diseases, as outlined below.

But, there is a possibility that drinking too much green tea could cause some of the negative effects associated with too much caffeine intake.

There’s also a risk that drinking green tea in large quantities could lead to reduced iron absorption and anemia. These risks increase with green tea supplements, which are more highly concentrated. However, capping your daily consumption between three and five cups appears to be an optimal amount.

Below, you’ll see six ways in which drinking green tea regularly can potentially add years to your life. And then, don’t miss What Happens To Your Body When You Drink Green Tea.

1. It may help you beat superbugs

With the invention of antibiotics, humans figured out a way to help our bodies overcome once-deadly illnesses. But many antibiotics are no longer as effective as they once were, as bacteria, parasites, and viruses have begun to develop resistance to them. These strains are known as “superbugs,” according to Harvard Health Publishing.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t hope for the antibiotic pills you’ve been prescribed, however. Research published in a 2008 study revealed that drinking green tea while taking antibiotics significantly enhanced the bacteria-killing properties of the antibiotics. A more recent study published in the Journal of Medical Microbiology in 2019 unveiled similar findings.

2. It may prevent death from heart attack and stroke

A 2006 study, that consisted of over 40,000 Japanese adults, found that those who drank more than five cups of green tea a day had a 26% lower risk of death from heart attacks or strokes.

What’s more, the latest research reveals that if you’ve already had a heart attack or a stroke, regular green tea consumption is associated with a reduced risk of of death. Stroke survivors who drank green tea were 62% less likely to die during the study period and heart attack survivors cut their risk by 53%.

Scientists are still trying to understand the mechanisms by which green tea improves heart health. Research published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry suggests that a compound in green tea may break up potentially dangerous plaque build-up in blood vessels, which in turn reduces the risk of heart attack or stroke.

3. It may help your body fight autoimmune diseases

Research from Oregon State University suggests that a particular compound in green tea called EGCG can help our body fight autoimmune diseases.

When someone has an autoimmune disease, the body’s immune response goes awry and attacks itself. As the researchers from the university point out, there are certain cells in the body that exist to control this kind of response, called regulatory T cells.

More specifically, they discovered that EGCG has the potential to increase the body’s number of regulatory T cells. Though the initial research was conducted on mice, this is promising news in terms of green tea’s possible ability to protect against autoimmune diseases.

4. It lowers the risk of death for people with diabetes

Drinking four or more cups of green tea a day lowers the risk of dying from any cause in people with type 2 diabetes, suggests an observational study published in the BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care.

Those with type 2 diabetes are more prone to a number of serious health conditions, such as circulatory diseases, dementia, cancer, and bone fractures. The study found that participants who drank a combination of green tea and coffee had significantly lower risk factors for death, with the lowest risk being among those who drank four or more cups of green tea and two or more cups of coffee daily.

However, more research is needed to understand these associations. Drinking green tea may even help to prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes, as a 2018 study on Japanese adults found.

5. It may prevent cancer

Studies show that green tea may protect against prostate and breast cancer. What’s more, drinking green tea might increase levels of a naturally occurring anti-cancer protein known as p53. A new study published by researchers at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute recently uncovered an interaction between the EGCG compound in green tea and the p53 protein, which one of the researchers called “arguably the most important protein in human cancer.”

Cancer kills an estimated 600,000 people in the U.S. each year. While more research is needed to confirm the anti-cancer properties of green tea outside of the lab, researchers from a 2018 study noted, green tea compounds combined with other treatments, like “chemotherapy, radiotherapy, immune therapy, and molecular targeted therapy is expected to have some clinical benefit in patients with cancer.”

6. Studies show it increases your life expectancy

Longitudinal studies show that habitual green tea drinkers just generally tend to live longer than people who don’t drink green tea. In a 2020 study conducted on over 100,000 Chinese participants, those who drank green tea at least three times a week lived on average 15 months longer than those who didn’t drink green tea.

Of course, this data only draws observational associations between drinking green tea and a longer life, rather than finding green tea to be the direct cause. Scientists are still trying to understand the mechanisms by which green tea could increase the length of someone’s life. And there may be other, hidden reasons why green tea drinkers live longer—those who drink green tea could also make healthier lifestyle choices in general, for example.

Contributor: Urvija Banerji, Eat This, Not That!

10 Weird and Deadly Ingredients to Avoid

10 Weird and Deadly Ingredients to Avoid

Claremont Colonc Center
When reading the ingredient lists of packaged, canned and frozen foods, many unpronounceable words, chemical compounds and abbreviations can be found. Most of us do not have time to google each unknown ingredient while in the middle of a busy grocery aisle.

As a general rule, if you can’t pronounce an ingredient, it is best to steer clear. Real, whole healthy foods will usually have no more than five ingredients on the label. However, knowledge is power, and the more you know about the scary ingredients hiding within some of our most common food items, the more educated your choice to stay away from them will be. It’s easier to say no to that tempting pastry or pre-packaged entree when you know exactly why.

The following are 10 common food additives that can wreak havoc on your health:

Monosodium glutamate (MSG): A ‘flavor enhancer’ derived and processed from seaweed, MSG was originally associated with take-out Chinese foods. Today, it is a prevalent ingredient in a wide variety of processed foods, such as salad dressings, flavored chips, gravies and many sandwich meats, to name only a few. MSG is linked to numerous side effects, including skin rashes, numbness, nausea, heart palpitations, migraines and seizures.

In his book Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills, Dr. Russell Blaylock classifies MSG as an excitotoxin that stimulates the cells to the point of damage or death, potentially triggering or worsening conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and learning disabilities.

Aspartame: Aspartame, an artificial sweetener used in many ‘sugar-free’ products, is composed of aspartic acid, phenylalanine and methanol. Aspartame is responsible for the greatest number of reported side effects of any food additive, including dizziness, headaches and fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis symptoms. Individually, aspartic acid has been linked to reactions including nausea, abdominal pain, anxiety attacks, sleep disorders, and depression.

Phenylalanine, an isolated amino acid which comprises 50 percent of aspartame, has been linked to seizures, insomnia and severe mood swings in large doses, among other symptoms. Phenylalanine is especially dangerous to those with the genetic disorder phenylketonuria (PKU), and can cause mental retardation or death in people with this condition. Methanol is a neurotoxin and a known carcinogen, which breaks down into formic acid and formaldehyde, an embalming fluid, at 86 degrees Fahrenheit.

Carageenan: Carageenan is a thickening agent extracted from red seaweed and often used as a fat substitute in many food products, including processed meats, as well as cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.

In its processed form, manufactured via alkali chemical solvents, it can be hazardous to health. Some studies have linked carageenan to gastrointestinal disturbances including inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS), intestinal ulcers and colorectal problems.

Bromiated vegetable oil (BVO): An emulsifier derived from corn or soy (usually genetically modified) combined with bromine, BVO is used in many citrus-flavored sodas. It also doubles as an industrial flame retardant. Banned from food use across Europe and in Japan, BVO has been linked to skin lesions, nerve disorders and memory loss.

Animal studies have found that it can cause behavioral and reproductive problems when consumed in large doses. Additionally, bromine is an endocrine disruptor, and inhibits the body’s ability to retain iodine, which is essential for tissue health.

Hydrogenated vegetable oil: Hydrogenated, and partially hydrogenated, oils are a fancy way of labeling trans fats. Trans fats appear in many fried, fast and processed snack foods, as well as some breakfast cereals and baked goods.

They are created by applying pressure and hydrogen to vegetable oils to create a semi-solid fat. Dieticians largely agree that there is no safe level of trans fats, and that they should be avoided entirely. Consuming them has been linked to heart disease, obesity, and multi-infarct dementia.

Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT): A preservative used in some breakfast cereals, as well as a variety of other foods and cosmetics, BHT is also used in jet fuel, petroleum products and embalming fluid. A National Toxicology Program report published in 2005 states that BHT is, “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.”

It can also cause liver damage, and harm aquatic organisms, according to the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). The MSDS also bluntly states that this chemical compound, “should not be allowed to enter the environment.”

Guar gum: Guar gum is a processed form of guar seed extract. It is used as a thickening agent in many foods, including gluten-free foods, and pharmaceutical bases. In large doses, guar gum has been linked to digestive blockages and other disturbances in digestive function.

According to a 2002 study published in the International Journal of Cancer, individuals who consume guar gum as a main source of fiber have a greater risk of developing colon cancer.

Caseinate: Caseinate is not to be confused with casein, a protein which naturally occurs in dairy products. Caseinate is the processed byproduct of casein, found in many commercial protein shakes and other protein supplements. To manufacture caseinate, the casein from skim milk is treated with calcium hydroxide and sodium hydroxide, which are chemical alkalies.

Chemical alkalies inhibit the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. Caseinate is processed at a high temperature, near boiling, which essentially changes the protein into an ultra thermolyzed protein, and creates MSG in the process. Caseinate has been linked to indigestion, allergies and heartburn, as well as an increased risk of colon cancer.

High fructose corn syrup: Contrary to popular belief, high fructose corn syrup is not the same as sugar. It is derived from corn (usually genetically modified), and because of its chemical structure is more rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream. High fructose corn syrup has been linked to heart disease, diabetes and tissue damage. It also usually contains levels of mercury, due to the way in which it is manufactured.

Propylene glycol alginate: A thickener, stabilizer and emulsifier used in a number of processed foods, propylene glycol alginate doubles as an industrial chemical found in airport runway de-icers and antifreezes.

Remember, when choosing your ingredients, stick to what you can pronounce. If it sounds suspicious and you don’t have time to look it up, trust your instincts and stay away.

Contributor: The Alternative Daily