The blame for infertility usually falls to the female. Rarely is the evil eye cast upon the chance of male infertility problems.
As with the female half of fertility, lifestyle plays a large role in the number and viability of sperm. Despite this knowledge, visits to fertility “specialists” are usually limited in scope to the female side of things. This is because we can DO things to the female like give hormones to force fertility or, even more creatively, give hormones to the female to force fertility. The best known, most successful fertility specialists will even use hormones to force fertility in the female.
On the male side, there are few things we can DO to the male to increase sperm viability. This is because sperm is usually negatively affected by lifestyle and toxic exposures that need to be improved (with lifestyle) or eliminated (with toxic exposures). Fertility specialists are not all that great at identifying toxic exposures that will decrease the viability of the sperm. So what can help or harm male fertility? Here are a few I’ve touched on over the years:
- Celiac disease in the father lowers the birthweight of the newborn.
- BPA in plastic water bottles have a feminizing affect on men.
- Flare retardant exposure in men is strongly linked to infertility.
- Lycopene, the red pigment in tomatoes, has been shown to increase fertility in men.
There are, of course, many other factors, but chemical exposure is high on the list. Phthalates are compounds found in plastics as well (think “new shower curtain” smell) that are well known to affect fertility in females and males.
All of this sets the stage for this particular article, but before we get into this, you need to understand the concept of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO).
Monsanto, the archetypical evil corporation, makes (among many other toxins) the herbicide Roundup. Roundup indiscriminately kills growing things. It would be a bad idea for a farmer, therefore, to spray his fields with Roundup because his crops would get wiped out along with the weeds. On a white horse rides in Monsanto. Their scientists twist Nature, splicing in a gene into the seed so that the plant is resistant to Roundup. Now the happy farmer can coat his fields in Roundup without having to worry about his crops dying.
This is done to a variety of crops like wheat, corn, soy and alfalfa and the process continues to creep into all crops. So why all the hubbub over GMO crops? Just because it is completely messing with Mother Nature’s design shouldn’t have anyone worried, should it?
Of course the answer is yes. Roundup contains a compound called glyphosate. Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the US, so you can be pretty sure that, unless you are eating all organic, you’re getting a hefty dose of it. And, at least if you’re a rat in this study, it kills off the Sertoli cells of the testis (these cells support the development of sperm).
Doesn’t sound like a good thing. Drinking away some brain cells in college is one thing, but eating away the cells that help us guys make sperm is another thing altogether.
Keep in mind that this is a rat study, but here are the specifics:
- Roundup exposure was given at low doses (36 ppm) for 30 minutes.
- This created oxidative stress and turned on multiple stress-response pathways leading to Sertoli cell death.
- Roundup basically led to calcium overload within the cells, which set off oxidative stress and cell death.
- Roundup decreased the levels of reduced glutathione (GSH) and increased the amounts of thiobarbituric acid-reactive species (TBARS) and protein carbonyls.
- Roundup stimulated the activity of glutathione peroxidase, glutathione reductase, glutathione S-transferase, γ-glutamyltransferase, catalase, superoxide dismutase, and glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase, supporting downregulated GSH levels (basically, the cells were trying to protect themselves, albeit unsuccessfully).
So the next time you see the Millions Against Monsanto or the Occupy Monsanto FB page, instead of thinking that these are a bunch of fringe-environmentalists, it might be a good idea to listen to what they have to say.