Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Television may hurt your sperm count: Put down that remote and read

That new HDTV you bought to watch Super Bowl XLVII may be reducing your sperm count, according to a new study released on Tuesday. To be clear, though, although the issue is technology-linked, it's not due to radiation or the like. Instead, it seems to be due to that same old bugaboo: a sedentary lifestyle and lack of exercise.

That seems like common sense, because the study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that men who viewed more than 20 hours of TV shows weekly had only slightly more than half (56 percent) of the sperm count of those who watched nearly no television.

Admittedly, that seems like a lot of TV -- over three hours a day -- but when you think about it, it's not, if you cut out the exercise. A nightly dose of prime-time TV -- from 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. -- would amount to 15 hours during the work week. Five hours on the weekend is definitely doable.

In the opposite sense, those who were the most physically active -- 15 or more hours a week -- had a 73 percent higher sperm count than those who were the least physically active. You can probably count those who watch 20 hours of television among those who were often in the "least physically active" group. To be clear, though, the exercise had to be more intense, not light.

The study looked at the semen count of 189 college men between the ages of 18 to 22 who participated in the Rochester Young Men’s Study during 2009 and 2010 at the University of Rochester in upstate New York. In addition to their exercise and television habits, the men were asked about their diets, stress levels and smoking habits, all of which can affect sperm quality.

In addition to the sedentary lifestyle reflected by the overuse of the television, there's another hot button reason for less sperm. Allan Pacey, PhD, British Fertility Society chairman and senior lecturer in andrology at the University of Sheffield, said the findings fit in with what fertility experts already know: heat kills.
We know that men who wear too tight underwear have poorer sperm. So it’s not a million miles away from sitting on the sofa ... for too long and heating up your testicles for too long. It’s the same mechanism I would suspect.
That statement, however, brings up another question: Should future studies focus on men who video game for long periods, or sit for long period with tablets or laptops? They would, one might assume, build up the same amount of heat sitting in a chair.

Let's not forget, as well, past studies that pointed at laptops being used in laps and wi-fi radiation as affecting sperm.

Why then, does TV seem a good target for urologists? There is another reason posited for TV's affect on sperm quality. Dr. Edmund Sabanegh, chair of the urology department at the Cleveland Clinic, said:
A growing body of research suggests that if we’re not healthy, our sperm isn’t healthy. A lot of research has explored how television viewing increases obesity. One of the important mechanisms appears to be TV watchers are exposed to commercials for food. That makes you hungry and you eat more.
This therefore, is a reason to adopt another form of technology: a DVR that allows you to time-shift and skip those ads.

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