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Male Infertility and Toxic Elements

New evidence indicates that male fertility is impaired by exposure to heavy metals at levels much lower than previously thought clinically significant. According to a recent study in Environmental Health Perspectives, even moderate exposure to toxins such as lead and cadmium can significantly impair reproductive function in men.1

Researchers measured blood lead and cadmium levels in healthy men moderately exposed to these heavy metals at work or through lifestyle habits such as smoking. Higher blood lead levels were associated with several indicators of lower semen quality, including lower sperm count, less motility (spontaneous movement), and increased structural abnormalities. Higher cadmium levels were also independently linked to a greater percentage of pathologic sperm.

Importantly, these effects occurred at heavy metal blood levels far below those defined as toxic by the World Health Organization (WHO). Although WHO defines lead toxicity only at blood levels greater than 400 ug/ml, in this study men with blood lead levels between 50-350 ug/ml had, on average, 65 million fewer sperm in each semen sample than men with lower lead levels.

According to the researchers, this means "a decrease in human sperm count may occur even within the lead exposure range that is common for general populations worldwide." Both cadmium and lead are "pervasive in the human environment and accumulate in the human body over a lifetime," they point out. Smoking, aging, and alcohol were other independent factors associated with impaired reproductive function in the men.

Male fertility in humans is a relatively delicate thing. While animals such as rabbits and bulls have up to 1400 times as much sperm in their semen as they need to maintain maximum fertility, the human male sperm count is typically only 2 to 4 times higher than the threshold at which fertility drops significantly. This may make reproductive function in human males much more susceptible to impairment from environmental toxins and other harmful influences, the researchers observe.

Lead and cadmium disrupt the metabolism of zinc, a metal that the body depends on for optimum reproductive function, as well as protein synthesis, tissue repair, and immune function.

Elemental Analysis provides a thorough assessment of element toxin and nutrient levels in the body. Each specimen provides a unique clinical vantage point: Hair shows long-term toxic exposure and nutrient intake; blood (packed erythrocytes) reveals current or recent exposure; and urine evaluates the release of metals from tissues following a provocative challenge.

References

1 Telisman S, Cvitkovic P, Jurasovic J, Pizent A, Gavella M, Rocic B. Semen quality and reproductive endocrine function in relation to biomarkers of lead, cadmium, zinc, and copper in men. Environmental Health Perspectives 2000;108:45-53.

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The information herein is not intended as diagnosis, treatment or a cure. Should you have a medical condition please seek the advice of your medical doctor.

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Teresa Rispoli is a Doctor of Clinical Nutrition, a licensed Acupuncturist and Aesthetician, and clinical researcher. She has been in practice for well over 27 years. It is through her clinical practice that she has gained insights and solutions into chronic health conditions.

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