Germany: The lowest birthrate in the world?

Think of a first-world country with a reputation for a perennially competitive economy, an educated populace, and a rich cultural history -- and the problems associated with infertility don’t seem like they’d land among that list of positive attributes.

Germany, of all nations, has a birth-rate problem? And not the kind that implies overpopulation but one that, until very recently, placed the country at the bottom of the world’s birth-rate list of developed countries.

One bright spot: A 2015 study quoted by BBC News indicated that Germany had surpassed Japan to get out of last place on that list. And, as of this writing, the CIA’s World Fact Book estimated Germany’s birth rate at 213th out of 226 countries.

While an improvement, though, just-above last place is still not far from last place. And when compared to other European nations, Germany again ranks last, with an average of 8.2 births per 1,000 residents over a period of five years ending in 2015. Portugal logged 9.0 births per 1,000 over the same period, and Italy had an average of 9.3. France and the UK each reported birth rates of 12.7 per 1,000.

By contrast, the African nation of Niger boasted a birth rate of 50 per 1,000.

Like any other country, Germany needs to sustain its populace if it also hopes to maintain its economic and social way of life. But since the country doesn’t have the kind of problems of scale faced by, say, China, which recently eased its One-Child Policy in response to lagging birth rates, what could possibly account for Germany’s last- (and just-above-last) numbers?

First, a look at some recent positive developments.

A 2018 article from Deutsche Welle (DW) reported that Germany recorded its highest fertility rates since 1973. Citing numbers from the Federal Statistics Office, DW noted that nearly 800,000 more children were born in Germany in 2016 than in 2015 – a healthy and encouraging increase of 7 percent.

The increase is believed to be at least partially due to the German government’s implementation of so-called “family friendly” policies.

These include boosting parental leave allowances to two-thirds of income during the first year; guaranteeing parents placement for their child in a nursery at age 1; and, permitting parents to work part-time while also banking child allowances.

However, DW reported, parental leave and money aren’t effective enough tools in the campaign to persuade parents to have more offspring.

While nursery spots for child care are now guaranteed, there still aren’t enough nurseries, which effectively nullifies the guarantee for some families. France, on the other hand, places more emphasis on child care and less on parental leave. The result: The highest fertility rate in Europe, said DW.

Plus, the German labor market still lobs career hurdles into the paths of families with children. Many companies continue to refuse workers the chance to work part-time or from home, resulting in more low-paying jobs for parents returning from leave. And no one wants to keep having children when doing so weakens their earning power and, by extension, their ability to support a family.

And while the Federal Statistics Office noted that Germany has gotten out of last place in birth-rate rankings, the same office painted a bleak picture of Germany’s population numbers going forward.

In a press release, the office noted that deaths would “increasingly” outpace births for the foreseeable future. And, the office noted, “The positive balance of immigration into and emigration from Germany cannot close this gap for good.”

A report from The Economist underscored that notion not just in Germany’s case but for all of Europe, as well, stating that “migrants are no demographic panacea”.

The problem is mostly one of scale, given that the Federal Statistics Office said that Germany would need to take in some 470,000 working-age migrants every year in order to counter the country’s population decline. Those folks would also age, necessitating a continuous inflow, noted The Economist, adding that the population problem would be confounded by the fact that “[migrants’] fertility rates tend quickly to converge with those of the native population”.

Which, as already noted, would translate into a downward merging.

Amid all of the statistics and arguments, one idea remains clear: The safest and most practical method of ensuring maximum fertility lies not with the actions of governments and bureaucrats but with individuals themselves. Taking steps to preserve fertility can amount to a storing up of assets that no government can regulate, restrict, or adjust.

China: Examining Cultural and Environment Barriers to Conception

Beginning in 1979, the Chinese government prevented most couples from having more than one child so as to curb growth in the world’s most populous country.

By the time the 21st century rolled around, it became clear that China’s One-Child Policy was causing more problems than it was intended to solve.

According to a 2018 report from the New York Times, authorities in the capital city of Beijing were alarmed that a smaller labor force, plunging birthrates, and an aging populace would cause the ruling Communist regime to lose credibility and, in turn, power. Plus, how does a country with a longstanding one-child policy jump-start its birth rate when there are, because of that policy, fewer workers to sustain families?

So, in 2015, the government eased its decades-old dictum and allowed couples to have two children.

Most would expect the country’s birth rate to begin ramping up as a result – but that’s not quite what happened. In fact, recent figures cited by the Times indicate that the birthrate for 2017, compared with that for 2016, fell by 3.5 percent. Which means that a nation long believed to be plagued by overpopulation now has a birth rate that can’t keep its population numbers steady.

Despite this, for many reasons, couples aren’t exactly in a rush to have children.

For starters, the government hasn’t been very helpful in encouraging greater rates of conception. State-run media, says the Times, regularly run headlines such as, “Make sure you don’t miss out on women’s best years for getting pregnant!”, which the government maintains is between the ages of 24 and 29 – a time of life when, like their counterparts around the world, Chinese women are looking to launch and develop careers.

The government’s response was to run more stories and ads with women wearing graduation outfits while holding babies under headlines such as “‘Already had a baby’ becomes a sought-after quality in the job-hunting season — more female university students prepare for pregnancy”.

Still, women who do want to start families are also encountering problems. But in China, the struggle isn’t just a personal one, as is often the case for women in other countries. Instead, because of the government’s role in regulating families, it’s become a national issue impacted, for some, by sensitivity to the topic.

This has led to a “stigma surrounding infertility in Chinese society”, says a CNN report. Phoebe Pan, who administers a support group for women dealing with infertility issues, told the cable network, "I know so many Chinese women who are overwhelmed by so-called infertility and sterility problems."

And even though fertility treatments for women are now available in China, that doesn’t necessarily ease the problems of trying to conceive. IVF treatments run an average of $4,700 there, says CNN, although that cost isn’t covered by state medical insurance.

Furthermore, even when women do decide to invest in IVF treatments, the experience often proves far from pleasant. One Chinese woman quoted by CNN said that she and her husband had to sacrifice valuable time every week trekking to clinics, where they spent four hours per visit. She added, “The real consultation time lasts only five minutes.”

It’s fair to say that the above issues affect both men and women who are trying to conceive. On top of that, however, men face their own fertility challenges in China.

A few years before the One-Child Policy was amended, Reuters reported that sperm counts in Chinese men had been dropping since the 1970s. Quoting a report from China’s Xinhua news agency, Reuters noted that the country’s recent streak of economic growth had resulted in unhealthy lifestyles, which in turn “threatens the quality and structure of our future population,” said Huang Hefeng of Zhejiang University.

Other culprits cited by the Xinhua report: Pollution, stress, and multiple abortions. A China Dialogue report speaks directly to the first two of those problems, quoting Wang Li, the director of a major sperm bank in Jinan, the provincial capital of Shangdong, as saying, “Reproductive ability could be influenced by people’s levels of pressure, ways of living and the conditions of living, but there is no denying that pollution could be an adverse impact.”

Li Zheng, a sperm expert at Shanghai’s Renji Hospital and director of Shanghai’s sperm bank, concurred, saying, “When the environment is bad, sperm become ‘ugly’ and even stop swimming.”

Even the government-run media chimed in, with the People’s Daily declaring in an opinion piece, “When the smog is affecting people’s reproductive ability, who should still be nonchalant?”

The good news: Even when challenges to fertility are compounded by a region’s culture and environment, Legacy clients can take steps to protect their assets in a safe and stable environment.

Protecting your assets against accidents

Accidents are just that: Not always foreseeable nor preventable, despite taking the best of precautions.

When it comes to male fertility, obvious accidental dangers involve direct trauma to the testes. Care should be taken to protect this area, not only to avoid an extremely painful injury, but because the fragile ducts that carry sperm and protect them from the body’s immune system can be ruptured as the result of an accident.

Should these ducts become damaged and the sperm exposed, this will spur the creation of anti-sperm antibodies which will hinder the sperm’s ability to swim to the egg for fertilization.

"That's why wearing a cup for playing sports is so important," John Amory, a specialist in male reproductive medicine at the University of Washington, told the Wall Street Journal. "It's not just to prevent pain."

But try telling that to younger men, and they may shrug off injuries to the groin because they believe that they are indestructible. Forever.

In fact, says Ajay K. Nangia MD, Associate Professor of Urology at University of Kansas Medical Center, many young men are much more concerned about contracting a sexually transmitted infection than they are about the possibility of some rough contact to the genital area.

Not a good mindset, says Nangia: “In these situations, an injury earlier in life can be tragic to the hopes of a couple that is trying to conceive. This can cause serious distress in a relationship and change hopes for the future.”

Nangia adds that, because this is the case, preventing these kinds of injuries can be best achieved through education. And not just on the dangers of sports-related injuries, but also on how to give testicular self-exams to detect a cancer that could be cured in virtually every case – if it is spotted early enough.

Not only are younger males who play sports in their prime fertile years, says Nangia, but several studies have shown that men of this age are seriously under-informed regarding the impact of damage to the male genitals, particularly with how this can correspond to conceiving a child as the man matures.

Younger women, on the other hand, generally receive information about reproductive health from the time they start their “period”. The only equivalent opportunity for young men to receive similar education about their reproductive health occurs at the time of a sports physical.

All well and good for those who are athletically inclined and willing to pay attention when that time comes. But what about other injuries that can pose a threat to reproductive health?

Nanjia stresses that sports-related injuries to other parts of the body, such as the neck, spinal cord, and head, occur with greater frequency than might be thought. At the extreme end of the spectrum, injuries to vulnerable parts of the body other than the groin area can result in paraplegia or quadriplegia.

“All these issues can affect fertility, ejaculation and erections,” says Nanjia.

And the risks to fertility posed by engaging in physical activities aren’t limited to contact sports. Regular participation in intense exercise regimens – even those where the chances of accidental injury seem slim to none – can compromise a man’s ability to conceive.

A recent study review published in the American Journal of Men’s Health indicated that, while the answers to questions concerning physical activity and men’s reproductive health were not decidedly clear-cut, current research suggests that “intense physical activity may affect the semen concentration, as well as the number of motile and morphologically normal spermatozoa.”

Or, in layman’s terms, serious exercise could have an impact on sperm counts as well as the shape of sperm and their ability to swim. The review further mentioned that “testicular heat stress”, which could arise from intense exercise, was one factor in altering the swimming ability of sperm.

The authors noted, “Differences in the impacts of tight- versus loose-fitting underwear should be addressed, as higher scrotal temperatures have been reported in men wearing tight clothing.”

Even though the research might not be conclusive when it comes to the direct effects of exercise on men’s reproductive health, Dr. Nanjia points out another area of caution: Regular and prolonged exercise, such as bike riding or spinning, could result in a “loss of sensation” in the groin area, making it more difficult for a man “to get and maintain an erection.”

The healthiest choice for Legacy clients, in all of these and related cases, is to continue to reap the benefits of exercise and participation sports while protecting their assets before theories about damage become irreversible realities.

Khaled Kteily
Legacy is Your Chance to Freeze Out Cancer

Men produce genetic mutations at a rate of one every eight months, four times quicker than in women.  For this reason, older men have children with higher rates of genetic defects, even though you can technically have children into your 60s or 70s. The fact is, however, every man should be storing his assets at the youngest age possible, so that he has stored the healthiest, highest-quality version of himself to protect himself against these risks.

In fact, cancer is nothing but an extreme form of genetic mutation. And while the War on Cancer seems some ways from total victory, great strides have been made in treating its many forms and mutations – often, though, at a terrible price. Chemotherapy, for instance, while often successful, comes with serious side effects – including some that touch upon the area of male fertility.

Men hoping to one day conceive a child who are also about to undergo chemotherapy are understandably concerned to know the effects of treatments on their sperm. Who better to address these questions than those who might treat them?

According to the MD Anderson Cancer at the University of Texas, “Cancer treatment can cause temporary or permanent infertility in men.” Men start creating sperm cells at the point of puberty, and, barring any mishaps, disorders, or diseases, continue to produce sperm for as long as they live. Cancer treatments could render a man infertile if they were to wipe out every stem cell in the testicles that are needed to form new sperm cells.

This can result if both testicles are removed, if the testicle area receives large doses of radiation, or if extreme amounts of alkylating chemotherapy drugs are administered.

Men dealing with testicular cancer, most of whom are young says the Anderson Center, “are likely to be infertile before they are diagnosed with cancer.” However, roughly 50 percent experience a decent recovery to a point of “good fertility” – even if they’ve had a testicle removed or undergone chemotherapy.

Given the risks to male fertility, the Anderson Center recommends taking proactive steps to preserve fertility before chemotherapy or pelvic radiation treatments begin. Otherwise, sperm could be damaged. The specific recommendation given “simply involves collecting a sample of semen and freezing it.”

The American Cancer Society (ACS) echoes the Anderson Center’s recommendation, stressing that discussions about preserving fertility should begin well before the commencement of cancer treatments – talks that the patient may need to initiate, since doctors don’t always raise this topic themselves.

In that case, it’s perfectly fine to ask your health provider the following:

  • What, if anything, could be done before beginning my cancer treatment to improve the chances that I will be able to conceive a child?
  • I would like to look into sperm banking. Would this be possible for me? Could you direct me to where I might find more information?

Indeed, says the ACS, “Sperm banking is the most well-established method of fertility preservation for men.”

The ACS goes on to note that, while many men anticipating treatment will have semen samples indicating that their sperm counts or number of sperm with normal shape is low, these findings are quite common in men with cancer. And, the organization stresses, “It is important for patients to know that they can and should store the sperm even if they have reduced sperm quality or quantity.”

For those who may not desire or have the opportunity to bank sperm ahead of treatments, it is possible to preserve sperm after therapy has concluded.

A study published in the Journal of Andrology details several such scenarios. In one, an American doctor describes trying to help a young patient who was willing to forego chemotherapy treatment for a few hours so that a sample of his sperm could be collected and frozen. However, he wound up being too ill when it came time for the sample to be taken.

In response to his doctor’s query about alternative collection methods, Dr. Ole Schou of Denmark replied, “We have done that many times….You can normally find motile sperm in the ejaculate up to about 70 days after chemotherapy and radiation.”

Dr. Marvin Meistrich of the United States differed, saying that patients should let at least six months pass after the last round of chemotherapy before attempting to freeze sperm because of concerns over “increased sperm aneuploidy,” or cells with an abnormal chromosome count, which can lead to genetic disorders, including birth defects.

Cancer can unfortunately strike in any season of life. Proactive and protective measures are the best defenses for a man’s assets. Forward-looking Legacy men have already stored their assets. Have you?

Khaled Kteily
As you get older – addressing misconceptions about male fertility

There might not be any absolute need to hurtle into fatherhood, but research indicates that men can wait too long before starting a family.

A new study indicates that a couple’s chances of having a baby decrease as the father ages. Laura Dodge, who headed up the research at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, told the Guardian newspaper of London that couples should keep the study’s findings in mind when thinking about starting a family.

“When making this decision, they should also be considering the man’s age,” said Dodge.

Complicating matters further for men who’d prefer to wait a few years, the study suggested that some women benefit when trying to conceive with younger men.

Specifically, the Harvard/Beth Israel study, reported at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology conference held in Geneva in 2017 (and subsequently published in the journal Science Daily), found that when women aged 35-40 tried to conceive with men aged 30-35, the likelihood of their having a baby was slightly more than one in two chances.

This rate increased to seven in ten chances when the man was 30 years of age or younger. Women aged 30 to 35 who had older male partners on average experienced live birth rates of 64%; the rate increased slightly to 70% when they partnered with men in their own age range.

Nick Macklon, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Southampton, who did not contribute to the study, noted that the findings could give women ammunition in the battle to motivate their male partners to get moving in a family direction. He cited several studies that show women often wait to conceive because men drag their feet in supporting this decision.

“This reminds us that it takes two to tango and it’s not just down to the age of the woman,” Macklon said.

(It’s worth remembering that the Harvard/Beth Israel study comes about a year after a Danish study determined that children sired by older fathers were at a greater risk to develop autism; here’s more information about The Risk of Genetic Mutations.)

What, exactly, causes male fertility to decline as men grow older? Researchers aren’t certain, but they have zeroed in on some factors that come into play when couples are trying to conceive.

Women are born with a fixed number of eggs for life; these can rack up mutations as women age, which helps to explain why older women experience problems with fertility.

It’s a different story for men. While it’s true that the aging process impacts sperm quality, which in turn makes it more difficult to father a child as well as increasing the risk of miscarriage, Dodge suggests that aging, deteriorating sperm isn’t entirely responsible for male fertility problems.

She theorizes that even though men produce new sperm daily, mutations eventually latch onto the cells that make those. Plus, older sperm tends to be characterized by more damaged DNA. She plans to conduct further work to get to the bottom of these issues.

Harry Fisch, MD, director of the Male Reproductive Center at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York, tells WebMD that while it’s true that “[w]omen set the baby-making agenda,” that doesn’t give men a total pass as far as conception is concerned.

"Not only are men not aware of the impact their age has on infertility, they deny it.,” says Fisch. “They walk around like they're 18 years old.”

Worse, adds Fisch, even though men have an internal sense that something is happening as regards their own biological clocks, they can at the same time have a tendency to manifest that awareness in ways other than by showing interest in starting a family.

“Some men,” he says, “express the biological changes by buying a hot sports car."

Legacy, on the other hand, helps you with the only life investment you’ll make. Preserve your most important assets today so that when the day comes, you’re ready. Your mate, after all, doesn’t want a “younger other” as the father of her children. Nor will they have much interest in competing with your new ride for passionate attention. They simply want the youngest, healthiest, most viable you.

Khaled Kteily
Harvard studies effect of obesity on male fertility

Harvard Study Review Concludes Excess Weight a Threat to Sperm Production

Pregnant women often experience irresistible hunger cravings, sometimes at all hours of the day and night. These kinds of cravings can lead to a substantial, and temporary, weight gain for the mother -- and also for the father, who often climbs on the impulse-eating bandwagon in a “binging-loves-company” move, since gaining a few extra pounds in solidarity with his partner can seem both harmless and supportive.

At any given time, though, men classified as obese are at a greater risk for infertility. In fact, researchers in France have discovered that obese men are likely to have lower sperm counts than men of normal weight. They also might not have any viable sperm at all.

The researchers concluded, "These data strongly suggest that excess body weight affects sperm production."

After the French researchers released their information, Jorge Chavarro, assistant professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), co-authored a review of their findings, which included data from 14 previous studies. The combined sampling size of all of the studies totaled approximately 10,000 men.

Roughly 25 percent of the 10,000 subjects were found to have a low sperm count. A different analysis showed that 250 of nearly 7,000 men produced no sperm at all.

Men with a few extra pounds were 11 percent likelier to wind up with lower sperm counts. They were also 39 percent likelier to produce no sperm than their normal-weight counterparts, according to an analysis of the data by Sebastien Czernichow and his co-workers at the Ambrose Pare Hospital, Boulogne-Billancourt. 

However, obese men were 42 percent likelier to produce a low sperm count than their normal-weight counterparts and 81 percent likelier to have ejaculate without any sperm.

The researchers theorized that several factors could have led to their findings. One example: Male hormones could possibly become transformed into estrogen in fat tissue, impacting the production of sperm.

"More fat tissue, more estrogens," said Czernichow.

The team also speculated as to whether excess fat in the stomach and hips could lead to an overheated scrotum.

While Chavarro wasn’t able to prove that excess weight will cause problems for males trying to conceive, he nonetheless told Reuters, “In general you expect that men with lower sperm counts will have a greater frequency of difficulty conceiving than men with higher sperm counts.”

Shortly after the Harvard review was published, Dr. Paul Turek, an internationally recognized thought leader in the area of men’s reproductive healthcare, weighed in.

An advocate of the theory that “sperm production is an engine that really wants to run hard and fast,” Turek cited another Harvard study, the first of its kind at the time, that indicated a significant contributor to the obesity problem in men is diet.

Or, as he succinctly put it, “Junk in means waistlines out.”

While the sample size was only 99 subjects, 71 percent of whom were obese or overweight, the Harvard researchers still found that men who consumed high amounts of saturated fats had lower sperm counts. And that men who ate omega-3 polyunsaturated fats — those typically found in plant oils and fish — were likelier to have sperm of better quality.

Turek noted that the study did not cover other conditions that could impact sperm quality (such as heart disease, sedentary lifestyles, and diabetes), it was clear that “dietary fats are now key suspects in the link between obesity and infertility. In other words, sperm are feeling the weight of obesity.”

As anyone who has ever gained weight knows too well, those higher numbers on the bathroom scale can come as a surprise, particularly when metabolism tends to slow down with age but appetite doesn’t. So if you are thinking about your legacy, ideally you should focus on getting in shape before using Legacy’s services.

Khaled Kteily
How will smoking affect your legacy? Studying the effects on male fertility.

It’s long been known that women who smoke while pregnant are at a higher risk for health problems, including certain birth defects, premature birth, and even infant death.According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking also makes it more difficult for a woman to conceive; those who choose to smoke anyway run a greater risk of having a miscarriage than those who don’t.

And recent research on laboratory mice suggests that smoking while pregnant could harm the fertility of offspring.

Study author and Professor Eileen McLaughlin, co-director of the Priority Research Centre in Chemical Biology at the University of Newcastle, Australia, told the Telegraph newspaper, "Our results show that male pups of ‘smoking’ mothers have fewer sperm, which swim poorly, are abnormally shaped and fail to bind to eggs during in vitro fertilisation studies. Consequently, when these pups reach adulthood they are sub fertile or infertile.”

But what about the effects on fertility in men who smoke?

According to an April 2016 meta-analysis published in the journal European Urology, smoking is associated with decreased sperm count, poor sperm shape, and impaired sperm swimming ability. The analysis, which spanned 20 studies and slightly more than 5,000 men from all over Europe, also found that, compared to light smokers, the detrimental effects of smoking on sperm health was more intense in moderate to heavy smokers.

Here’s a troubling kicker to all of that, though: Male smoking is also connected to decreased IVF rates and, potentially, increased occurrences of miscarriages. Plus, secondhand smoke (the effects of smoke on a nearby non-smoker) can have consequences for a woman’s fertility.

One study indicated that secondhand smoke cut down on the number of eggs harvested in an IVF cycle by 46 percent.

That’s right. Lighting up doesn’t just affecting your own fertility, but that of your partner and likely your children, as well.

Let’s take a closer look at exactly how smoking affects sperm and semen quality:

  • Sperm morphology: This refers to the sperm’s shape. Abnormally shaped sperm might not swim decently enough to reach the egg. And even if they do, they might not have the power to fertilize the egg. Males who smoke have less healthy shaped sperm than men who don’t.
  • Sperm motility: Researchers determined that, in men who smoke, there’s a 13 percent decrease in motility, or the ability of a sperm to swim. And if the swimmers can’t make that final touch to the wall, the egg can’t be fertilized.
  • Sperm DNA: Studies have determined that men who smoke have sperm with greater DNA fragmentation. This could lead to problems with embryo development, fertilization, increased miscarriage rates, and embryo implantation.
  • Sperm concentration: Studies have shown that men who smoke have a 23 percent decrease in sperm concentration, which translates to the number of sperm present in a measured amount of semen.

To be sure, there’s still some debate as to whether decreases in sperm quality can cause infertility in men – at least, not all by themselves. However, men at the cusp of infertility could push themselves squarely into that realm were they to take up or continue smoking. And there’s no evidence suggesting that continuing to smoke will improve a man’s chances of success when it comes to fertility treatments.

The previously quoted meta-analysis also covered the area of the potential impact of paternal smoking on offspring. While there was no direct connection between a smoking father and his child’s fertility, researchers did discover a rise in birth defects among the children of men who smoke. There was also an increased risk of cancer, which could be attributable to damage to sperm DNA.

In the published conclusion of the meta-analysis, the researchers write, “Our results suggest that cigarette smoking has an overall negative effect on semen parameters.”

Can’t get much clearer than that, say what anyone might about a supposedly harmless puff here and there. And if the risks are indeed generational, there’s no point increasing your exposure when you have the safer, pre-emptive option of preserving your assets now. Your children and partner will someday thank you both for that choice. And as far as your legacy goes - so might your grandchildren

Khaled Kteily
Male Fertility Affected and Your Drinking Habits

Men who habitually drink alcohol – even those who do so responsibly -- run the risk of compromising their fertility. In fact, at least one governmental institution’s definition of “habitual use” might not fall in line with commonly held views of safe alcohol limits.

In 2016, the U.K.’s Department of Health issued new guidelines to replace previous ones that had been handed out 21 years earlier. The new suggestions were significantly lower than the old ones, which had stated that women should consume no more than 2 to 3 units of alcohol per day and men no more than 3 to 4.

Instead, the government said, neither men nor women should drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week – which translates into 7 glasses of wine or 6 pints of average-strength beer. Or about a bottle-and-a-half of wine per week.

Professor Matt Field, a lecturer in addiction at the University of Liverpool went even further, telling BBC News, "Any amount of drinking is associated with increased risk of a number of diseases….So, any amount of alcohol consumption carries some risk."

But when it comes to alcohol’s possible impact on male fertility, the lower U.K. government numbers are nowhere near those suggested by a 2014 study from the journal BMJ (British Medical Journal) Open, the Guardian newspaper reported.

Turns out that consuming a mere 5 units of alcohol per week could lower the quality of a man’s sperm. Even worse, the more alcohol a man drinks, the study suggested, the less potent his sperm.

The study surveyed 1,200 Danish military prospects ranging in age from 18 to 28 who were each provided with a medical exam between 2008 and 2012. Each subject was interviewed regarding his drinking habits and was also asked to provide blood and sperm samples.

The soldiers who regularly consumed 40 units of alcohol every week showed sperm counts that were about a third lower than those who drank between 1 and 5 units per week; these heavier drinkers also had sperm that were 51% less “normal looking.”

The study authors further cautioned, “Our study suggests that even modest habitual alcohol consumption of more than 5 units per week had adverse effects on semen quality.”

The authors’ conclusion rang clear: “Young men should be advised to avoid habitual alcohol intake.” Although like most men, we find that statement easier in principle than in practice. 

Alarmingly, a study from the Middle East Fertility Society Journal found that alcohol use did more than simply reduce the potency and number of sperm – it wound up shrinking the size of the testicles themselves. In lab experiments conducted on rats, researchers discovered that alcohol was responsible for alterations to Leydig cell shape and function. These cells are located next to the seminiferous tubules where sperm are produced.

The tubules eventually shrank, Medical Daily reported, causing nearby cells to die. This combination effect resulted in shrinking testicles in rats; researchers theorize that this may also be the case for humans. (One bit of good news: Stop drinking, and the testicles will probably return to their formerly normal sizes.)

Finally, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), alcohol use has an impact on all three elements of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis, a collection of hormones and endocrine glands that contribute to male reproduction. A key finding: “Chronic alcohol use in male rats also has been shown to affect their reproductive ability and the health of their offspring.”

The NIH also cited a study that attempted to determine the effects of alcohol on the reproductive potential of teenagers. After two months of steadily providing alcohol to pre-pubescent laboratory rats, the animals had lower body weights and lower testosterone levels than rats that weren’t exposed to alcohol.

And even though the rats that consumed alcohol were able to mate after essentially being given a week off from drinking, “successful mating resulting in conception was significantly reduced and the number of successful pregnancies was diminished.”

Back to the BMJ study for a sobering warning: Professor Chris Barratt, professor of reproductive medicine at the University of Dundee, concluded that, while some men who didn’t drink experienced reduced semen quality, “high levels of alcohol intake do appear to be associated with changes in sperm and semen that may affect fertility.”

Depositing your most important assets today will help protect you against changes like these. Reach out to our team for more information, or view Legacy’s products today.

Khaled Kteily
Unusual Risks to Male Fertility

No one believes that breathing pollutants is beneficial to your health. It’s no surprise, then, to discover that inhaling vehicle exhaust fumes can have negative impacts on sperm quality.

But taking antihistamines, which are supposed to help us breathe better? Or consuming soft drinks, which seem harmless enough in moderation?

Unfortunately, there are a number of risks to your fertility that you may not be aware of. First, a look at the obvious “bad”: According to a recent study published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, air pollution could alter the shape and size of sperm to the point of causing infertility in men.

The research team conducted a cross-sectional study of nearly 6,500 male subjects ranging in age from 15 to 49 who were involved in a basic medical exam program in Taiwan between 2001 and 2014. The presence of a small particulate 30 times tinier than the width of the average human hair was estimated as the kind of air pollution inhaled by the men over a period of three months and for an average of a couple of years. That particulate, known as PM2.5, is known to cause cancer in humans. And, because of its minuscule size, it’s also easy to inhale very deeply into the lungs.

Study results indicated that men who inhaled more PM2.5 air pollution – the kind that comes from cars, power plants, and even fires that result in atmospheric chemical reactions – were likelier to have smaller and more abnormally shaped sperm.

The authors concluded, “We advocate global strategies on mitigation of air pollution to improve reproductive health.”

Unfortunately as far as sperm quality is concerned, the breathing doesn’t get any easier when it comes to the use of antihistamines.

A review published in the journal Reproduction determined that several studies showed negative effects of antihistamines on healthy testicular function.

The substances, which are commonly found in prescription and over-the-counter medications that treat symptoms of allergies as well as reactions to bee stings and bug bites, contributed to a reduction in the motility, commonly known as swimming ability, of sperm. Antihistamine use also resulted in lower sperm counts.

Commenting on the findings to the Guardian newspaper of London, Darren Griffin, professor of genetics at the University of Kent, noted that all medications than help can potentially hurt – a situation which, he said, “warrant[s] further investigation.”

He wryly added, “In any event, however, persistent sneezing is not a particularly good reproductive strategy either, so perhaps taking the antihistamines when necessary is the lesser of two evils.”

But even if taking allergy medications is a better choice than trying to conceive in-between sneezes, what sort of double bind could downing soft drinks present to fertility?

A particularly universal one, says a new study from the journal Epidemiology.

Research from the Boston University School of Public Health indicates that consuming just one soft drink per day can result in a reduction of fertility – for both men and women.

Nearly 4,000 women aged 21 through 45 and just over 1,000 of their male partners, all residents of Canada or the United States, were surveyed. After evaluating data that included the participants’ lifestyle choices, diet, and medical history, the researchers concluded that drinking soda contributed to a 20 percent drop in the average monthly probability of conception for both women and men.

More specifically, men who drank one soda or more every day experienced a 33 percent reduction in the probability of successfully conceiving with their partners; women who did the same showed a 25 percent drop.

Lead study author and professor of epidemiology Elizabeth Hatch was quoted by Medical News Today as saying that couples trying to conceive should think about cutting back on their consumption of sugary soft drinks, “especially because they are also related to other adverse health effects."

For men thinking about their future, Legacy's products will help you protect your most important assets today. 

Khaled Kteily
Epigenetic Inheritance: Can Fathers Pass On Experiences Through Their Genes?

Dramatists from Euripides to Shakespeare to Ibsen have explored a classic theme that continues to resonate today: Can the sins of the father be passed on to the son? Can children inherit more than a parent’s blue eyes, hammer toes, or disease-prone genes? Do guilt and shame pass through generations?

In the Nature vs. Nurture debate, the commonly held view of genetic inheritance is that your child is born as a ‘blank slate’ and that any genetic markers from the parents are erased as their children are born. But the pioneering field of “epigenetic inheritance” – the study of how inherited genes are affected by changes in the environment – suggests that may not be the case.

In 2015, a group of researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York published their findings of a study that examined the genes of 32 Jewish men and women, all of whom had survived the Holocaust, whether in a concentration camp, in forced exile, or in situations of torture. The scientists also took a look at the genes of 22 children who were born after the war to parents who were Holocaust survivors.

Rachel Yehuda, who led the study, wrote in the journal Biological Psychiatry, “The gene changes in the children could only be attributed to Holocaust exposure in the parents.”

While news of Yehuda’s discovery generated headlines, it also provoked controversy because of its small study size, limited number of generations (at least four would be needed but only two were included), and failure to account for social factors, such as offspring being exposed to stories of the Holocaust.

By May 2017, enough skepticism had surfaced that the Dallas Morning News reported that the study had been debunked, noting, “[T]he Center for Epigenomics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York called it the ‘over-interpreted epigenetics study of the week.’

However, a team from the University of Cambridge found that traumatic experiences could be passed on from one generation to the next.  Specifically, genes in mice that had been chemically muted by stress passed down that effect through eggs and sperm to the next generation. Jamie Hackett, who led the study, told the journal New Scientist, “What we’ve found is a potential way things can get through, whereas before, everything was considered to be erased.”

Hackett and his team had their critics, too.

Adrian Bird of the University of Edinburgh told New Scientist, “The idea that what’s left carries information about the environment is sufficiently far-fetched to demand much more evidence of its importance. I’d say [the erasure] is an inefficient process, and what’s left doesn’t matter.”

Fascinatingly, however, yet another study from Emory University published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, found that mice inherited fear of certain smells from their fathers, even when the babies had neither met their fathers nor had they ever experienced that smell before. In fact, that fear was then passed on their own offspring.

Brian Dias, the post-doctoral fellow who spearheaded the Emory experiment, became convinced that his findings were legitimate when he and his team trained male animals to fear a certain smell and then collected their sperm 10 days later. They artificially inseminated female mice located across the campus in a different lab and discovered that “the brain anatomy persisted” – meaning that the babies inherited the fear of that same smell as a result of it being present in their fathers’ sperm.

While studies continue to be conducted on this topic, our clients aren’t taking the risk. By depositing their assets with Legacy, they’re protecting their children from any traumas or stresses they may experience in the future. And were they alive today - Euripides, Shakespeare, and Ibsen, were they around today, might nod their heads in knowing agreement.

Khaled Kteily
Harvard Study Suggests Older Fathers Have Smarter, Longer-Living Children

Most men wonder about the right age to start a family, if at all. If you are planning on having children, do they benefit most when born to youthful parents who are still dealing with their own emerging-adulthood struggles? Or would they be better off with older parents who have not only been around the block a few times, but have also weathered and surmounted a handful of crises?

Who better to ask than experienced parents themselves?

Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco did just that as part of a 2012 study confined to 107 people, the majority of whom were married, white, and with above-average incomes. Included were 15 women who had used in vitro fertilization to conceive their first baby when the woman was older than 40.

The researchers wrote, "A majority of women and men in the study believed that childbearing later in life resulted in advantages for themselves and their families.”

The main reason: 72 percent of women and 57 percent of men in the study said that being more emotionally mature was a clear advantage.

Said one dad, "I know that I’m way more self-aware than I was 20 years ago. I feel like I’m in a better position to communicate better with my child and help them more in life, and I understand how to be a supportive, encouraging parent."

Several other studies have championed the advantages to children and their older parents:

  • A 2017 study, published in the journal Translational Psychiatry, revealed that your kid stands a good chance of becoming a brainiac. Researchers from both the U.S. and the U.K. studied 15,000 sets of twins to measure their intelligence at age 12.  Most notably, it turned out that kids born to older dads are likely to have a high I.Q as well as a knack for focusing on their interests.
     
  • Children of older parents might enjoy longer lives themselves, said a 2012 Harvard University study, which noted that aging sperm could transmit longer telomeres, or the very ends of chromosomes, that guard DNA – a finding that was connected to longevity in two generations of offspring.
     
  • The little ones wind up leading healthier lives, according to a sizeable 2012 study published in the British Medical Journal. Researchers discovered that kids up to the age of 5 with older moms experienced fewer emotional and social dilemmas as well as fewer accidental injuries. And they also tended to make better progress in the area of language development.
     
  • Older mothers tend to experience fewer 'Mommy Meltdowns', a 2016 Danish study found. They were better able to set boundaries with their children, and were also considered less likely to scream at or severely punish them. As a result, their children experienced fewer social, emotional, and behavioral issues as they grew up.
     
  • And while conventional wisdom might suggest that women who have children later in life stand to lose more of their income-producing years, a 2016 Danish study said that simply wasn’t the case. In fact, women who initially gave birth when they were under the age of 25 lost more income over their working lives; women who first had kids over the age of 31 enjoyed monetary gains.

Why not choose to enjoy the best of both paths?

Whether you decide to have children now or a few years down the road, what matters most is to take action early in order to secure the options and likeliest outcomes that are best for you and your partner. Which will also hopefully be best for your children.

Those who want to give their children some of the benefits of their own hard-won maturity would be wise to consider preserving assets. You can start doing that very early in your chronological development, and then as you mature and know the time is right to conceive, you can take advantage of using healthier and younger assets of your own.

Khaled Kteily
Same-Sex Relationships and Celebrities

Foster care, surrogacy, and adoption are three paths many GBTQ men follow to start a family. All of them exact something of a price, both on the wallet and the emotions. And the costs to men who prefer same-sex relationships start piling up far earlier than for many of their heterosexual counterparts.

But wait. Can’t a man simply ask a close female friend to carry his child without going through needless bureaucracy? Actress Jodie Foster is said to have done just the opposite, coaxing a man to help her conceive rather than going through a more formal donor/surrogacy experience.

Some men might enjoy a close enough relationship with a woman to try that route. For the vast majority, though, hiring and paying for a surrogate to carry a child proves less risky than hoping a friend doesn’t have second thoughts a few months into the pregnancy.

First off, though, consider the other available options.

With costs ranging from $0 to about $2,000, fostering a child in hopes of adopting them can amount to something of a relative bargain. Still, Ellen Kahn, Director of the Children Youth and Families Program for the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, tells the Chicago Tribune that efforts for foster kids are initially focused on reuniting them with their family of origin – a process that can last upwards of 18 months.

While it’s possible that reunification will occur – a situation that could cause considerable heartbreak and disappointment for foster parent and child alike – men in same-sex relationships seeking to look out for a child in need are paid a stipend to cover transportation, medical care, food, and other necessities.

Given the wild card presented by potential reunification, though, such men might instead opt for outright adoption. But that comes with a much steeper price tag – anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000 or more, says the Tribune. Thinking of using an adoption agency? Costs start at $30,000 and go up from there – provided you can find a match as well as be deemed a fit parent-to-be.

Which brings us to the option of surrogacy, where men don’t have to worry about losing a foster child or navigating the maze of adoption.

The costs of surrogacy, however, appear daunting, adding up to somewhere between $100,000 and $200,000, according to FertilityIQ co-founder Jake Anderson.

Even so, says Anderson, more men who identify as GBTQ have chosen surrogacy in recent years, in no small part because employers are more open to shelling out cash for fertility treatments for heterosexual couples, and women who prefer same-sex relationships have become more persistent in seeing that those same benefits cover them, as well. Men, to be sure, will understandably continue to join the ranks of those pushing for surrogacy benefits.

"We think this is going to be pretty darn commonplace," Anderson says. "Maybe not tomorrow, but five years from now, 10 years from now, everybody will know a few people who have built their families through gay surrogacy."

Make that through more affordable gay surrogacy, thanks to company benefits as well as more and more people participating in the process.

And although a more affordable surrogacy process can seem expensive relative to other options, it’s important to remember that, as with anything involving the health of you or your family, certain levels of cost are unavoidable. If you’re going to pay a surrogate to carry your baby, you want that process handled with the utmost care, with all screenings and routine procedures included.

That’s all the more reason why, for men who prefer same-sex relationships wanting to conceive children of their own, it is vital to preserve donor assets in the very best possible condition. Which means doing so now, so that, as surrogacy becomes more commonplace for gay families, and predictably more affordable, their assets remain in top shape when the time is right to conceive.

Even if they somehow manage to have a movie-star friend who’s willing to go the distance with them on their quest to start and raise a family.

Khaled Kteily
Future Possibilities and The Story of Walt Disney

A number of years ago, a story got around that went something like this: The body of entertainment master Walt Disney – whose artistic creations often looked far into the future to predict new advances in science and society -- had been frozen so that he might be one day be revived when science had discovered a way to treat whatever had killed him.

It all sounded plausible enough. After all, who wouldn’t want the chance to live a healthier life for as long as possible – even if that meant being kept on ice until scientific discoveries allowed for a near-immortal existence?

The Disney rumor has long been debunked, but the fact remains that advances in science continue to be made in ways that promise to alter how we live our lives. And that includes how and when we choose to conceive our children.

What if, for example, one waited to start a family when humans were better able to fight diseases and afflictions? Back in 2014, scientists from The University of Edinburgh announced that they had successfully regenerated an immune organ in mice.

At the time, lead researcher Clare Blackburn from Edinburgh’s Medical Research Council (MRC) Centre for Regenerative Medicine, said, “Our results suggest that targeting the same pathway in humans may improve thymus function and therefore boost immunity in elderly patients, or those with a suppressed immune system.”

Sound far-fetched?

What about the recent news that a team of scientists from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School used adult skin cells to regenerate functional human heart tissue, according to a study published in the journal Circulation Research?

The result: Researchers were able to grow full-sized, human hearts from stem cells in a laboratory setting.

Other types of human body parts, albeit some on a more miniature scale, have also been grown in the lab.

In January 2016, researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin announced that they had succeeded in growing fallopian tubes in a Petri dish.

Just a few months earlier, Ohio State University (OSU) scientists revealed that they had developed an almost complete human brain, again in a dish, that matched the brain maturity of a 5-week-old fetus.

Rene Anand, OSU professor of biological chemistry and pharmacology, said, “It not only looks like the developing brain, its diverse cell types express nearly all genes like a brain.”

As in, “99 percent of the genes present in the human fetal brain.” In an organoid that’s roughly the size of a pencil eraser.

Even vaginas have been grown in the lab. In 2014, they were transplanted into four teenage patients who had been born with a rare genetic condition in which the uterus and vagina are either developmentally stunted or, in some cases, not present at all. Treatment was reportedly successful, with those who were sexually active saying that they experienced “normal function.”

Make no mistake: No one is calling for an artificial human grown entirely from the lab. There are serious ethical issues to be considered and confronted.

Researchers at the University of Michigan recently took on some of those concerns when announcing that they had essentially stumbled upon making human embryos out of stem cells.

Yue Shao, a member of that team who is continuing his studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), told the MIT Technology Review, “[W]e are trying to grow a structure similar to part of the human early embryo that is hard otherwise to study. But we are not going to generate a complete human embryo. I can’t just consider my feelings. I have to think about society.”

As scientific advances continue, though, it stands to reason that humans will keep progressing in health, wellness, and achievement.

By taking a sample of your best, highest quality assets today, you could preserve them for a time in the not-so-distant future, when they can be used to take advantage of scientific discoveries to create the healthiest human possible, from the healthiest possible you.

It sounds like something out of a Disney fantasy movie – one where the present is ever more rapidly catching up to the future.

Khaled Kteily
No Asset is Eternal

Why would any man consider freezing his sperm? Don’t they last forever?

After all, men such as Mick Jagger have fathered children well into their advanced years – his eighth kid having come along when the aging rocker was 73. Plus, isn’t the practice of freezing vital life elements reserved for females, who are born with a fixed number of eggs for life, while men continue to create sperm with each and every heartbeat? And even though people may make the occasional reference to male menopause, doesn’t that simply refer to old-man moodiness instead of actual physical changes?

Either way, fact is that male sperm counts have been reduced by more than 50 percent over nearly the last four decades, says the Guardian newspaper of London.

You read that right. Half of all male swimmers worldwide have gone missing. And it took just 38 years.

Hagai Levine, an epidemiologist and lead author of the study from the University of Haifa, tells the Guardian, “The results [of the latest research findings] are quite shocking. This is a classic under the radar huge public health problem that is really neglected.”

The research Levine refers to, published last year in the journal Human Reproduction Update, amounts to a compilation of 185 studies (out of 7,500 that were screened) carried out from 1973 to 2011 that include nearly 43,000 men. The researchers took care to divide the data according to whether the men were from western countries, including New Zealand, Australia, Western Europe, and North America, or somewhere else.

They also took into account potential mitigating factors such as how long the men might have gone without ejaculating as well as their ages. And the numbers proved sobering:

  • Those western males who were not aware of their fertility registered a 52.4 percent drop in sperm concentration – measured in parts per milliliter -- over the 38-year period
  • Their sperm counts – meaning the total number of sperm in a given sample – fared worse, falling a tad below 60 percent

Similar trends weren’t picked up in men from other countries, though the researchers noted that not nearly as many studies were available for those populations.

Still, says University of Edinburgh professor Richard Sharpe, the 38 years’ worth of results profiled by Levine and Company are “about as close as we are going to get” to being certain that the decline in sperm counts/concentrations is real.

Worse, it’s not exactly clear why there’s a dramatic and worldwide sperm shortage.

“That is primarily because we have seriously under-invested in male reproductive research,” says Sharpe.

It’s clear, then, that sperm that’s available for conception purposes is significantly down. And we can’t say for sure why that is, though research points to myriad contributing factors. So, what to do?

Perhaps more specific sampling is needed, says University of Sheffield professor Allen Pacey.

“For example you take a random sample of every 18-year-old in the UK and you test 10,000 18-year-olds every year prospectively over the course of 20-25 years,” he explains, while at the same time cautioning that a study in Denmark that did just that found no evidence of sperm count/concentration reduction.

Indeed, Tina Kold Jensen of Syddansk University in Denmark expresses her surprise at Levine’s findings. “I thought it would probably have stopped,” she says of the dramatic drop in sperm counts.

That’s because Jensen worked on the 15-year Danish study that zeroed in on younger men who were signed up for military service. Her research did not result in a finding of reduced sperm counts – though, she says, that could have been due to pre-existing poor sperm counts in the research subjects.

Pacey stresses that men who are worried about their sperm count should consider taking steps to either plant a seed while both giver and receiver are more predictably fertile – like, say, when a man and his partner are in their early 20s.

However, he adds, “[I]f you are trying with your partner when she is 35 then that’s when the heartache comes, because by then you have got low sperm count, you’ve got an older partner and you haven’t got a lot of time to try and fix it medically.”

Which brings us back to where we began: Locking in the integrity of sperm – by cryogenically preserving them -- before the effects of aging, the environment, poor health habits, or other possible degenerative causes can begin to take their toll.

When should the deep freeze happen?

Researchers offer various optimal ages, with one recently advocating for sperm preservation before the age of 25, and another saying a couple of years back that freezing sperm at age 18 would help to reduce the risk of genetic disorders. The science is continually improving, providing a mix of new discoveries…including new tales of concern.

So, even if you’re Mick Jagger – or perhaps especially if you’re not – there may be no better time to save those future rock stars than the present.

Khaled Kteily
The Risk of Genetic Mutations

Look through a microscope at the sperm of two healthy men – one older, one younger -- and you won’t be able to tell much of a difference.

Dive deeper to the genetic level, though, and you may well see worlds of discrepancies. Some potentially alarming. And not just because microscope technology has improved.

All the way back in the 1930s, pioneering geneticist J. B. S. Haldane observed a strange pattern among families with lengthy histories of hemophilia: The gene responsible for the condition tended to come from the X, or male, chromosome. While he couldn’t prove it at the time, Haldane theorized that fathers passed on more mutations to their children than their mothers did.

By 2012, scientific evidence published in the journal Nature backed up Haldane’s hunch. What’s more, the study, based on dozens of Icelandic families, confirmed that the age at which a man fathers children is a deciding factor in the number of mutations his children inherit.

In other words, while it may feel that parts of you are getting better with age, the genes you pass along to your heirs might not be.

In fact, the study’s lead author, Kári Stefánsson, chief executive of deCODE Genetics in Reykjavik, “The more mutations we pass on, the more likely that one of them is going to be deleterious,” or capable of causing damage.

While it is true that some genetic mutations are harmless and even necessary for the evolution of the human species, it’s the damaging ones that Stefánsson referred to – those that could cause autism or schizophrenia, for instance -- that understandably worry couples wanting to start a family.

At the time of the 2012 study’s release, Allan Pacey, then-chairman of the British Fertility Society and professor of andrology at Sheffield University, wrote in the Guardian, “This is the first study to firmly establish that random mutations across the genome rise significantly as men age….We can only issue seemingly obvious advice that becoming a father under the age of 40 is probably better for the health of your children than waiting until you are older.”

Unless, of course, waiting until you are older is a real option. More on that in a bit.

Stefánsson updated his study in 2017 to include a significantly larger number of subjects, -- 14,000 Icelanders in all, including 1500 groups of parents and children. He and his team determined that men transmitted one genetic mutation for every eight months of age, while the rate for women was for every three years of age. And while he pointed out the benefits of some mutations, he nevertheless stated that “they are also believed to be responsible for the majority of cases of rare diseases of childhood.”

Moreover, he was quoted by Scientific American as saying, “The majority of the contribution still comes from the father, particularly when the father is in an older age range.” SA went on to note that, while the risk is still small, “a 45-year-old mother and father are 5 to 10 percent more likely to have a child with autism than are a 20-year-old mother and father. “

Stefánsson’s findings theoretically translate into approximately 15 new genetic mutations for a 35-year-old mother to pass along to a child, compared to 53 for a man of the same age.

It’s important to note that no one – not the researchers nor anyone commenting on the findings -- wants in any way to cast blame toward either gender as causing diseases or disorders due to genetic defects.

But the fact remains that advances in research point to some concerning trends which could help men and women make healthier choices for themselves and for their families. And those discoveries can also help scientists possibly prevent and even treat problems beforehand at the genetic level, though that’s understood to be achievable some ways down the road.

For now, though, the latest research suggests that the earlier some choices can be made – such as whether to preserve sperm and eggs for future viable use through cryogenic preservation -- the greater the benefit.

And it doesn’t take arriving at middle age to acquire that wisdom.

Indeed, Professor Pacey recently confirmed to the Guardian that researchers have long known that the risk of conceiving children with medical conditions caused by genetic defects ramps up as a father ages. It’s precisely because of that, he said, that the recommended maximum age for sperm donors in the United Kingdom has been set at 40 years of age.

“Put simply,” he concluded, “the genetic quality of sperm from younger men, in terms of new mutations, is generally much better than that of older men.”

Khaled Kteily
Lifestyle Factors Affecting Your Assets

Couples in the modern world are facing more fertility issues than ever before. In fact, approximately 1 in 6 couples will face infertility, and 30-50% of those cases involve male factor infertility. The below outline some of the main factors you should stay aware of:

Smoking

So many studies have been conducted into the negative impact that smoking has on health in general. There has been several studies into the affects of smoking on male fertility, but much more research is needed to draw more conclusions. However, there are inferences that can be seen from evidence based reviews of the studies. It suggests that there is a correlation between smoking and reduced sperm function, and semen quality.

Diet

An unhealthy diet is another factor that not only affects all aspects of your health, but also your fertility. There’s many so called fertility diets available online, but most of them have no scientific value. Essentially, all you should do is follow a balanced diet, with anti-oxidant fruit and vegetables. If you do want to add some supplements for increasing your fertility, then zinc is needed to help sperm productions. Studies have shown that the male sex glands, and sperm have high concentrations of zinc, but most diets are low in the nutrient. You can take a zinc supplement, or you can try adding foods that are naturally high in zinc, such as eggs, whole grains, brown rice, nuts, sardines and fish.

Alcohol

Excessive drinking of alcohol can lead to problems with fertility. There’s some scientific evidence that excessive alcohol consumption can lower testosterone levels, which leads to reduced sperm quality, and reduced sperm quantity. It can also cause problems with libido, and impotence. Reducing the amount of alcohol you consume can help to reverse these effects.

Heat

The testicles are outside the body as a way of regulating the temperature needed for proper sperm production. Overheating them can cause reduced motility, because prolonged heat can actually make the sperm die. You should avoid things like hot saunas, hot tubs, tight underwear, and keep your laptop off your lap. If you work in a hot environment, such as a kitchen, make sure that you take regular breaks to cool off.

Sleep

Your sleep patterns are another factor that will impact on all aspects of your health, and this may include your fertility. Research from the Boston University School of Public Health found that the needed level of sleep for optimum health is 7 to 8 hours. Men who slept for 6 hours or less, and men who slept for 9 hours or more, had a 42% reduced probability of conception. The research seems to suggest that there is a link between sleep and testosterone production. Other studies have also found a correlation between sleep and decreased libido, and a more generally unhealthy lifestyle.

Stress

There has been a number of studies conducted on the effects of stress on male infertility. The evidence suggests that the hormone released due to stress can inhibit testosterone production, which in turn negatively affects sperm production. The extent of this negative impact is difficult to measure, and the data available currently has come mostly from animal models, however, there is enough evidence to prove that stress is a causative factor.

Weight

Your weight can impact your fertility. Most people are aware of the health risks associated with being over weight, and the affect that this can have on sperm production. Obesity can cause hormone imbalance, which affects sperm, and it can decrease your sex drive. The excess weight can also increase the temperature around the testes, and it can lead to erection dysfunction.

Caffeine

Caffeine can cause damage to sperm. Most people think of coffee, but tea, cola, soda, and even chocolate contain caffeine. The studies that have been conducted suggest that caffeine damages the DNA structures within sperm.

There’s so many other factors involved when determining your fertility, but adjusting your lifestyle, and making changes now can improve your sperm. Another factor is age, which is why many men are looking to Legacy to preserve their future fertility. There’s a range of packages available to suit everyone, and it is the best way to ensure that in the years to come, you will be prepared for whatever your future brings.

Khaled Kteily