Photo: Orly Dayan
Sperm Bank
Photo: Orly Dayan
Study: Major decline in Israeli men's sperm quality
Eighty percent of young Israeli men applying to be sperm donors turned down due to low sperm quality. Cell phones, milk to blame
We all know the typical Israeli macho man: IDF warrior, full head of hair and yet one of the most significant symbols of manhood – sperm quality – is in a dramatic decline.


These alarming findings, which were published in the Los Angeles Times, are the results of a study by Dr. Ronit Haimov-Kokhman from Hadassah Hospital, Mt. Scopus in Jerusalem.


The study was conducted after the director of the sperm bank at the Hadassah Hospital, Ruth Har Nir, noticed a serious decline in sperm quality over the last decade.


"This July I had to turn down 80% of the potential donors because the sperm quality wasn't good enough to ensure successful conception by the female recipient," said Har Nir.


There are three factors used to assess sperm quality: concentration, motility and the shape of the sperm cells.


A normal sperm sample contains 15 million sperm cells per cubic centimeter. The lower the sperm concentration the lesser the chance the female can achieve a successful conception.


According to the Hadassah sperm bank study, sperm concentration has plummeted by 37% in the past decade. If 20 years ago one third of the potential donors were turned down by the bank, today two-thirds receive a "thanks, but no thanks" on account of low sperm quality. And this comes after the criteria to accept donations were lowered.


The bad news is that the study focused on healthy young males, "The cream of the crop of Israeli society," according to Dr.Yuval Bdolach, an In vitro fertilization specialist and director at the Mt Scopus Hospital's sperm bank.


Therefore it's reasonable to assume that the situation is worse in the general population. "One of the main reasons couples turn to fertility treatments is low sperm quality," explains Dr. Bdolach. He says lowering the criteria at the sperm bank was unavoidable. "We just couldn't find enough high-quality donors."  


Professor Jacob Ashkenazi, a director at Superm, a private sperm bank, is less pessimistic. "Even in today's generation of donors we can locate quality sperm and utilize it."


The causes for the decline in sperm quality are yet unclear but one can turn to the usual suspects: Radiation emitted by the cell phones men carry in their pockets too close to their private parts; dairy milk might also be a contributing factor.


Since cows are milked during late pregnancy, their milk contains a high level of the female hormone, Estrogen, which lowers sperm quality. Men's shampoo also contains chemicals which are absorbed in the human body and enhance the production of Estrogen.


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