A recent study conducted by Christopher Exley, PhD, from the UK, has found evidence that aluminum, the most common metal on earth, could be causing damage to your sperm. The results of the study showed that aluminum levels in the semen were higher in men with low sperm counts, leading to the idea that aluminum is indeed responsible for sinking the swimmers.
THE DANGERS OF ALUMINUM
Aluminum is one of the most prevalent metals in the earth’s crust and is in everything from beverage cans to pots and pans to some foods, medications, even bottled water and antiperspirants. As such, we are exposed to it frequently, with few side effects being reported, except in very high levels.
The ATSDR, or the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry, lists aluminum as having an effect on the musculoskeletal, neurological and respiratory systems. Those most affected by the metal are those who work in industrial areas in which aluminum dust is in the air. In these conditions, workers have been found to have lung changes and some decreased performance in nervous system function. At one time, it was believed that high levels of aluminum in the body might contribute to Alzheimer’s disease, but these studies were ruled as inconclusive. However, there is currently no information concerning the potential effects of aluminum on the male reproductive system.
POTENTIAL SPERM DAMAGE
The UK researchers responsible for the study do not have any definitive answers but believe that the metal may have an effect on spermatogenesis, which is when the sperm are developed in the testes. It is important to understand that this was just one small study, which does not provide enough proof to positively determine whether or not aluminum actually causes a drop in sperm numbers. This is a subject that will require further intensive study before a full verdict can be given on the matter.
SHOULD YOU BE CONCERNED?
According to Associate Professor of Occupational and Environmental Health at the University of Toronto, Raymond Copes, MD, MS, the results of this one study are not cause for alarm for a few reasons. First, there are many other substances that are much more likely to cause health problems; secondly, the research did not find any other links to sperm issues such as poor health or overall quality, which can both be fine, even if the number of sperm is low.
The clear guidance at this point is that there is no cause for panic nor completely eliminating aluminum exposure. Given the wide range of products, medications and even foods that contain aluminum, Dr. Copes explains that if you are alarmed by the results of the study, you can try to limit your exposure. However, he only advises this if the changes you make to limit the aluminum will also have a healthy impact on your life overall, such as opting for unprocessed foods and fresh fruits and vegetables.
By Dr. Jennifer Chovan