Couch potatoes' sperm is safe
Sitting long into the evening on a leather couch is a shocking insult to testicular function.
According to researchers at Harvard, watching too much television while sitting long into the evening on a leather couch is a shocking insult to testicular function.
Apparently couch potatoes have lower sperm counts than other males. So here is yet another report of how we damage that most intimate and most prized attribute we all cherish - our fertility. Is all this attention, so frequently bruited in the media, because we still confuse our fertility with our sexuality?
Certainly the extraordinary focus on fertility is rather bizarre. Doctors, scientists, environmental experts - even from time to time politicians - condemn us. Our indulgence in the various pleasures of life are having a drastic effect on the future of the human race.
For years we have been repeatedly warned that we men are getting increasingly infertile. Sperm counts, it is stridently claimed, are steadily reducing; some authors have even argued that Homo sapiens will soon become extinct because we are not protecting our generative organs. The less-regarded medical journals have published some 440 in the past 25 years that allude to the subject. Be warned, they say, the ''poor environment'' that we enjoy is sapping our sexual and generative vitality.
Even our diet and the jobs and sports we men do are having a catastrophic effect. Exposure to plastics in tap water, or drinking more than one cup of strong coffee each morning, or using a laptop computer held too close to your private parts, is fatal. Gold mining, deep-sea diving, taxi and lorry driving, rugby playing, cycling and long-distance running are emasculating us.
It seems that even wearing a cricket box or a jockstrap (which was once thought to protect those vital organs between our legs) causes damage by overheating - but fortunately our testicles will soon be so small that we shall no longer need such protection.
Women, too, are in the firing line. Yet the lie that women make themselves infertile by being stressed is wrong. And a quick perusal of herbal medicine and health advice websites reveals a vast number of foodstuffs, beverages, trace elements and dietary additives that give awful warnings about how they prevent an egg from being released from the ovary. None stands up to real scrutiny. If bad living really causes infertility, why is there such massive overpopulation in some of the poorest countries in the world, where stress and poor diet are major environmental issues?
A young woman in her teens has about 300,000 eggs in her ovaries. By the time she is menopausal, none are left. Women of child-bearing age steadily run out of eggs by the continuous process of cell death. While reading a copy of the Guardian carefully from cover to cover, a normal woman will have lost on average two eggs - while, typically, a normal man will have made 70,000 new sperm. Such knowledge gives grist to the mill of some of my colleagues, mostly male, who are ''fertility experts''.
We repeatedly hear senior fellows of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists giving advice to women to have their children as early in life as possible. Delay, they say, will lead to being infertile. They ignore the conflict of interests they may have, of course, as some of them run highly profitable IVF clinics. So often in such centres, a good living is made out of storing frozen eggs of well-to-do women who are worried by such publicity.
But I doubt that television is the source of the problem, otherwise my own kids, who work day and night in the media, would be sterile. Nor is it likely to be due to sitting long hours through the evenings on leather couches, otherwise the hereditary peers sitting in the Westminster parliament's House of Lords would surely have died out.
Robert Winston is emeritus professor of fertility studies at Imperial College in London