Sperm Wars: What happens to sperm today has long term consequences for a male’s offsprings health and wellbeing, new research suggests, as a result of changes to the DNA.
A recent article on this site documented the increased levels of toxins in pregnant women in Jerusalem vs. their counterparts in the states. It was an eye-opener for those living in the Middle East who advocate for a greener way of life in this part of the globe, but it didn’t address the issue of potential fathers and their exposure to pollutants, a topic also close to the heart of eco-sexuality.
In this companion piece, we report on research that demonstrates that a male’s experiences and exposure to toxic compounds alters his sperm, so much so that the nasty effects are passed on in his DNA. Not only is this seen in animal studies, but human investigations are also showing comparable sperm wars.
When Dad is a Rodent
In one study, breathing in a pesticide tweaked male rats sperm, and their sons and daughters, grandkids and their offspring too, were born with permanent kidney and reproductive birth defects.
And in another animal study, even though there was NO previous genetic predisposition, genetically-slim males fed an unhealthy diet made sperm that led to their healthy-fed progeny to be diabetic rodents.
We are seeing a puckish shade of green. It’s long been known the importance of a mother’s diet on the future wellbeing of her children, something we’ve reported on in the past. There are consequences of GM foods, for example, on a woman’s fertility, and the type of personal lubricant is an important choice for lovers to make.
But women are born with all the eggs we will ever have. Improving our chances for healthy offspring sort of necessitates that we make sure they don’t get scrambled before we need them.
The Family Jewels are Being Tarnished
With men, on the other hand, one reasonable conclusion could be that because they are constantly making sperm, a few dysfunctional tadpoles here or there shouldn’t be worrisome because a man has several million more where they came from.
This information disputes that assumption in a provocative way. In simple terms, the exposure to toxins in the first referenced study caused some genes to be switched on, and others to be shut down. The males from that point onward continued to make DNA-altered sperm, and if our understanding is correct, this continued past the exposure to the toxin.
When DNA, the very blueprint of life, is changed, the results can be maladaptive. Proteins are made in ways that nature didn’t intend, and in this case, the result is the passing on of ‘altered inheritance’ to the male’s progeny. Even though these results are demonstrated in animals, transgenerational effects have been shown in humans with regards to smoking, food shortages and overeating, “as if the ghosts of our ancestors haunt of very genes.”
“In 2006 scientists announced the findings of a study in …Sweden,” writes Newsweek.com. “If a father began smoking before the age of 11, found Marcus Pembrey of the Institute of Child Health in London, his sons had a greater body-mass index, on average, than did sons of men who took up smoking as adults. In this same population, if a man suffered food shortages as an 8- to 12-year-old child, his sons’ sons were more likely to die young; if a woman suffered food shortages as a child, her son’s daughters were. Another study in Överkalix found that if a man overate in childhood, his sons’ children were four times more likely to develop diabetes and cardiovascular disease, found scientists at Sweden’s Umeå University.”
Eco-sexuality is still baffling to many who don’t quite get the importance of adopting more eco-friendly behavioral choices in the bedroom. Studies like this demonstrate that long-term consequences are hitting us where it hurts most: the family jewels. In terms of environmental pollutants, we are arguably living, breathing and eating a toxic soup.
Only time will tell how this translates to the ultimate survival and viability of today’s sperm and tomorrow’s children, in the Middle East and beyond.
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