A recent article in the Times newspaper by journalist Harry Wallop featured Concept’s Medical Director, Dr Kamal Ojha in a fascinating investigation into male fertility. Data shows that in this modern world, fertility is dropping at an alarming rate (see previous news items on Concept’s website). A study cited in the article coming from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem states that sperm counts have dramatically reduced from 92.2 million sperm per millilitre, to just 66.4 million. Dr Ojha suggests a few possible causes of this terrifying drop in sperm count: obesity, smoking, plastics, preservatives and even soy. Is nothing safe anymore? One might be reminded of the comically unending list, written by the Daily Mail, of substances that cause cancer (most of them mundane entries such as “pizza”).
Humans are incredibly complex creatures, so why, then, are we so susceptible to quite literally everything? Our ability to adapt – our biggest strength, which also happens to be our biggest weakness. DNA interacts with almost everything we interact with, and it might be a little more than you’d expect. Every time we eat food, a small sample of that food makes its way into the nucleus of a cell and collides with our DNA. Or it triggers a cascade of reactions that will eventually trigger our DNA. Either way, the DNA is transformed forever. And it might just be the part of our DNA that decides what shape the sperm will be. If that happens frequently enough, we might experience a large scale drop in sperm count.
Smoking is the easiest example to explain with. Particles in the smoke find their way into cells, and sneak their way into the nucleus. Once in the nucleus it can affect DNA in an extremely simple way. Our DNA is made of up four different letter codes: A, C, T and G. Chemicals in cigarette smoke can modify the G into something completely different. So the body gets confused when trying to read the DNA. Imagine if you were reading a set of instructions for cooking a particular dish, and one of the most important details was replaced with a letter or number that you have never seen before.
So should we all live inside of a plastic bubble and cut ourselves off from the world? Certainly not! This greatest weakness of ours is also our greatest strength. Our DNA can interact with the world around us, and make changes for our betterment. Working out, eating healthy and making the most out of life can affect our DNA positively. And while sperm counts are dropping, humans as a species are becoming more conscious of wellbeing and health.