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Falling sperm counts, declining egg quality, and endocrine disruptors (nytimes.com)
500 points by vincentmarle 12 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 601 comments

It would be helpful if we knew eactly what these endocrine-disrupting chemicals were. As is usually the case with such reports, this article is short on specifics.

Over the years there have many reports from cleaners to plasticizers, phthalates, and various other chemicals as endocrine disruptors but no one has put a sufficient measure on the problem so that we can move foreword - put regulations in place, etc.

As the article points out, what is so problematic is that many of the chemicals that are under suspicion are ubiquitous and not easily avoided.

I consider it important that we act quickly for not only public health reasons but also the fact that we're living in an increasingly chemical-phobic society and worrying the public without solid evidence isn't helpful to anybody.

We need need more research on this urgently.

Afterthought: it is essential that we have solid evidence ASAP as billions of dollars are tied up in the plastics industry. Plastics already cause environmental problems (and I constantly curse the fact that I have to get rid of so much waste plastic) but there's no point deliberately alienating the plastics industry without good cause.

There are lists available, e.g. https://edlists.org/

When the EU was debating the REACH regulations there was a big push to move to a "don't sell or produce it until you can prove it's safe" stance, but AFAIK it was significantly watered down before an agreement was reached.


Then there's the problem of "chemical cocktails", where combinations of chemicals are more dangerous than each chemical by itself; this gets a lot of media space, but is even harder to research than individual chemicals since just about everything gets mixed up in various concentrations in nature.

Is there a reason we can't just dump tons of mice into different sets and combos of chemicals and see what happens?

One problem is mice aren't humans. In many cases research done on mice ends up being overly pessimistic, because the short lifespans of mice compared to humans means there is less evolutionary pressure to be resilient to cancers and other diseases of aging. Equally, in other circumstances they'll be more resilient, because they don't live long enough to see the effects of longer term toxins. And of course, there can be differences in specific metabolic pathways.

So yes, it certainly would be good to do more of that research. But there's limits to what it can tell us.

I think that's basically the current system.

Unfortunately, we're worried about bioaccumulation over decades, and lab mice only live a year or so... It's also worth considering the number of Giant Breakthroughs that happen with mice which fail to translate to humans. They're quite different, it turns out.

It’s astounding how automated and reproducible software testing is.

And yet software crashes all the time ...

I'd wager ethical considerations would hamper such ambition.

The search space is pretty big and research costs money.

Right, synergistic effects are prevalent everywhere in with chemicals, drugs etc. One of the biggest factors is that we're exposed to so many trace chemicals that figuring out the combination of effects and whether their concentrations are relevant is extremely difficult even with the best science.

I reckon we will all be interested to see what the EU evaluation brings. What worries me though is that the EU is known for its hair-trigger response in such matters. If the evidence isn't really solid then we'll end up with a long protracted (and unnecessary) war with the plastics/chemical industry.

As I see it, the chemical industry is the most vital of industries as it underpins just about everything that's manufactured nowadays, without it we'd be in deep you-know-what. The fact that it's had a lot to answer for in the past, pollution etc., cannot be ignored but demonizing it unnecessarily won't help either.

From my perspective as one who doesn't work in the industry but who's had training in chemistry, there are two major problems that need solving. The first is that the chemical industry, especially in recent decades, is essentially closed to outsiders. There are many reasons for this, regulations, worry about access to dangerous chemicals, industrial accidents such as Bhopal being bad PR, and the fact that the industry is afraid to say anything for fear the public doesn't understand or takes what it says the wrong way - not to mention that its own PR is terrible to nonexistent. The second is that the public is grossely under-trained in chemistry and thus it's easily spooked or frightened whenever the word 'chemical' turns up. This leads to situations where minor incidents get concatenated with serious ones and they all take on equal seriousness. (I'll refrain from muddying the waters here with examples but there are many.)

I haven't the time to go into the reasons why the public is so sensitive and twitchy nowadays - given that chemistry is taught in schools - but nevertheless it's a serious problem. The secrecy surrounding the industry only makes matters worse.

It's why I'm always worried about inquiries into such matters. Of recent times we see engineers and scientists being so noncommittal about so many things that regulators and politicians ban things by default before the science is set. I acknowledge that's a sweeping statement because there are obvious exceptions where both commonsense and incomplete science indicate that we should act immediately. That, I stess again, is why the public needs to be better educated in the subject - then more correct decisions would be made more often and without unnecessary drama.

We all know what these are. It's precursors to common plastics, and byproducts of their decay. Majority of these have been grandfathered as GRAS "generally recognized as safe" by the FDA when environmental laws first went live in the 60s.

The onus is therefore much higher, it is on you to prove they are harmful, instead of requiring producers to prove they are safe.

Nobody wants to stick their neck out because the petrochemicals lobby will go after you, your career and your family.

The only way to get this fixed is to require producers to conduct testing to prove they do not disrupt endocrine systems of not only humans, but other animals, insects and so on.

I'm just not sure the political will is there.

The most reasonable work around is to force producers to label their product.

There are many vegetable packing containers which do not specify which plastic type they are. There are thousands of cleaning products and hygiene products that hide these compounds in the 'Parfums' label.

Forcing manufacturers to exaustively list composition would at least give people the data to make an informed decision when buying a product.

Also we really need to we stop watering down all these health and environmental protection regulations because of lobbyists.

No, labeling things does exactly nothing for consumers, because most of them don't have a Phd in endocrinology so they don't have the faintest idea what to do with the extra information. The most reasonable workaround is forcing producers to prove safety of the chemicals they use before using them.

> labeling things does exactly nothing for consumers, because most of them don't have a Phd in endocrinology

They don't need to. We, as technologists and scientists, can develop solutions to make the decision process very easy, almost automatic. A smartphone app that reads a barcode and produces a color-coded safety value, from green to red, is all a consumer needs to shop safely. Or a website containing whitelists or ordered lists, "the safest shampoo is X". Then the free market will theoretically make manufacturers compete to be at the top of that list.

The problem is, such lists/apps can't be made until manufacturers disclose every single ingredient and chemical they use. And that won't be done until legislators force them to.

Technology is not the solution to everything. Almost nobody wants to go to a store and consult their phone for every item they purchase and do a complex optimization problem involving safety, ecological footprint, socially responsible supply chains, the dozen other problems we want to burden "informed consumers" with, their personal valuation function and the purchase price.

> Technology is not the solution to everything

It's not the solution, but in many situations (like this one) it helps the consumer make an informed decision overwhelmingly easier and faster.

> Almost nobody wants to go to a store and consult their phone for every item they purchase

How are you so sure about it? Have you read a survey? Could you please cite it?

You don't need to do it everytime, just the first time, and then settle on a brand for a given product, indefinitely. People already use similar apps for a health summary. And you don't need to do it all at once, it can be done incrementally. "Today I'm going to look for the best frozen lasagna". It takes 30 seconds to scan every option, and then some extra seconds to decide which one works best for you. The next time you go to the store you spend your 30 secs deciding on a frozen pizza brand.

> the dozen other problems we want to burden "informed consumers" with

So what do you propose? Assume the public is ignorant and just doesn't care? As individuals we have a responsibility to make informed decisions, award manufacturers with our money on an informed manner, and help other become and stay informed. And as technologists we have a much bigger responsibility to use technology as a fundamental tool in the process.

It's labeled now, and what good is that? I am sure you've seen "sodium benzoate" if you ever read these.

Not until someone actually finds free benzene in the drinks, giving rise to serious liability on the part of the companies, absolutely nothing gets done.


> when environmental laws first went live in the 60s.

I love our Earth and want to protect it as much as possible, and it's incredibly frustrating that restricting housing construction, globalizing pollution emission so it's out-of-sight-and-mind, and economically wrecking large swaths of middle America are the only things our environmental laws seem to be consistently good at :/

It’s easy to forget how much cleaner our air and water are now, though.

Clean enough for a lot of us to ignore that humanity's shared CO2 footprint is worse than ever because it happens Somewhere Else and doesn't (yet) impact us day to day: https://keelingcurve.ucsd.edu/

"Nobody wants to stick their neck out because the petrochemicals lobby will go after you, your career and your family."

Yeah. That's more blunt and succinct than I put it, and you're absolutely correct. It's a damning indictment on our laws, our governance and even our society that this can actually happen.

These days, techies and engineers fear to speak out and it takes a very brave person to be a whistleblower—and when they are, they're even ostracized by work colleagues who know the facts just as well as they do.

Laws have to be strengthened and new ones enacted but unfortunately there seems a snowball's of that happening.

When something’s this bad it would be much better to act now based on the evidence we have and figure out the full picture later. We know enough about how bad plastic is, even based solely on how it affects the environment and goes through the food chain as microplastics basically forever.

If you wait for someone else to think for you and protect you from all the dangers in life, you'll be waiting a long time.

The "regulators" are the same people and entities who make huge profits off this stuff.

Do your research and act on it yourself.

>Do your research and act on it yourself.

Or, we could acknowledge that most of the general public doesn't have the education necessary, and have the government regulate on our behalf. You know... like they're elected to do.

Average Joe truck driver or Jane LPN shouldn't have to have an indepth knowledge of endocrinology just to be safe from the greed and callousness of polluting corporations.

> Or, we could acknowledge that most of the general public doesn't have the education necessary, and have the government regulate on our behalf.

It's also worth acknowledging that having this kind of regulation makes our society more efficient.

I would be capable of informing myself on this issue, but I don't. The are so many issues of this kind that if I were to attempt to inform myself on all of them, I wouldn't be able to get anything done anymore.

Another way of looking at it is that regulation is a form of implicit specialization, which is why it helps us be more efficient.

On one hand, it is more efficient. On the other hand, it has proven to be vulnerable to centralized error, as we can see from tobacco, GRAS, PFOAs, and many other examples.

I believe that the regulation system overall is GOOD and not malicious, and catches up EVENTUALLY, but it's incredibly SLOW, if anything just due to its SIZE. You could be waiting for YEARS or decades for it to catch up to information that is available to you TODAY, if you just open your eyes and look.

> Or, we could acknowledge that most of the general public doesn't have the education necessary, and have the government regulate on our behalf. You know... like they're elected to do.

Hmm... Are you talking about the regulators who come from the same industry which produces the pollutants and are heavily lobbied by that industry?

> Average Joe truck driver or Jane LPN shouldn't have to have an indepth knowledge of endocrinology just to be safe from the greed and callousness of polluting corporations.

While I agree with your "shouldn't have to", there is no reason that they cannot read the same research papers and understand them enough to come to their own conclusions.

We are blessed with being able to access that information, and I think it is foolish to not take advantage of that privilege.

> Over the years there have many reports from cleaners to plasticizers, phthalates, and various other chemicals as endocrine disruptors but no one has put a sufficient measure on the problem so that we can move foreword - put regulations in place, etc.

I've been reading through http://projecttendr.com/ and they seem to be what you're looking for. I'm not sure what traction they've achieved on the political arena if any, though.

> Targeting Environmental Neuro-Development Risks Project TENDR is a unique collaboration of leading scientists, health professionals and children’s and environmental advocates. We came together in 2015 out of concern over the now substantial scientific evidence linking toxic environmental chemicals to neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder, attention deficits, hyperactivity, intellectual disability and learning disorders.

> Store food in glass containers, not plastic. Above all, don’t microwave foods in plastic or with plastic wrap on top. Avoid pesticides. Buy organic produce if possible. Avoid tobacco or marijuana. Use a cotton or linen shower curtain, not one made of vinyl. Don’t use air fresheners. Prevent dust buildup. Vet consumer products you use with an online guide like that of the Environmental Working Group.

I really want to do this, but it seems impossibly hard. For example, almost all the food I buy is in plastic containers.

Because its the same thing as a person setting your house on fire then advising you not to breathe in the smoke. Advice like telling people we are drowning in plastic because we don't recycle, telling people with no access to public transportation to minimize the use of cars, telling people with no access to healthcare to take care of their bodies, telling people that grew up in a glorified prison they call public schools to get more education. They flood the world with plastic to the point where people effectively have no other option than use plastic then tell people to not use plastic. It's funny how if people say the solution to income inequality is to execute billionaires we would never seriously entertain that thought, we would immediately know that is an absurd solution, yet when people say guys choose not to use plastic we stop and consider it as if it is a viable solution for ordinary people and not callously asinine advise. It is no wonder there is so much rage in the Western world when the elites present such ridiculous solutions to problems they themselves brought into existence and expect us to act like they are priests endowed with God's personal blessing.

Who is "they"?

It is "we". Almost all people I know will make selfish decisions that harm others for their own advantage. It seems to be simply human nature.

> It seems to be simply nature.


It's all about survival. Humans are animals not much different than a deer, lion or whatever. A deer will run away from something it doesn't know where a lion will attack/kill anything it doesn't know. Just like the stereotypical "git off my land" character of a country bumpkin. I mean, how do you feel when you see a stranger walking on your property? Same thing.

I always laugh when people say they feel close with nature. Um, hello! You ARE nature. The human brain just overlaid a thick layer of self awareness/logic/reasoning/emotion to the lower level animal bits. So instead of pissing on trees we instead draw lines on paper called borders and property lines. And we still live in trees, just dead ones turned into boxes called homes.

For thousands of years we struggled like any other animal to survive. If you had food you made sure no one takes it. If you found a safe place to sleep you dint want to share it. If a stranger wanders into your territory, chase or kill them, they are a threat. If you were a male you had to prove your worthiness to a female by fighting or peacocking (some things never change...) etc. Oh and we smell just as bad. The stink of a locker room or unkempt home is no different then the stink of a farm or zoo. You're a smelly hairless great ape. Deal with it.

Yes, but words exist and mean things. The fact that everything is natural does not mean that unnatural things don't exist.

Excellent comment! You are completely right and illustrated your points with hilarious accuracy.

The upper-middle professional-managerial class who gets to make and implement these decisions, and write these articles.

edit: More simply, what upper-middle class people usually refer to as "everybody."

So much "plastic" packaging nowadays (in the UK) is labelled with "Do not recycle" but no indication of what it's made of. This has annoyed me from an environmental point of view, but probably one should look at it from a health point of view, too. Perhaps those items are made from a material that the manufacturers know has potential health implications and that's why they're carefully not saying what it is?

Perhaps the law should require proper labelling of packaging material that is in contact with food just like it requires food ingredients to be listed. If manufacturers were to lobby hard against such a rule, what might we conclude from that?

NPR recently collected some history lots of plastics got some recycling symbols even though most plastics are not recycled for economic reasons: plastics have to be unmixed for true recycling. Most food packaging is landfill.


The symbol with three arrows in a triangle and a code does not mean an item is recyclable. The official name is a Resin Identification Code. It lets you identify what material an item is made of, but it does not say whether it can be recycled or not, as that varies depending on local facilities.


TIL resin identification code.

Edit: the original stated purpose, according to the linked wikipedia page, was: facilitate recycling...

And if it actually will be recycled depends not only on the facility but also on the cost of doing what needs to be done (for separation and transport), and the possibility of what can be done (laminates). However these constraints are not communicated clearly.

I'm 52 years old, I live in Germany, where we "recycle" for ages, about 30 years now, and we tell our kids and grannies and everybody in between to separate the trash because "recycling", and we see benches and other sturdy plastics items "made from trash" and still, only 17% of the collected packaging trash is reliably recycled, while the recycling of other plastics (toys, vehicle parts, any plastics that are not packaging) is also intransparent.



> Perhaps those items are made from a material that the manufacturers know has potential health implications and that's why they're carefully not saying what it is?

Unlikely. It's more likely that they don't know, because they didn't look too hard.

The reason it's not recyclable has nothing to do with that, though. It's not recyclable because plastic recycling is very difficult, many plastics can't be recycled, and of those that can, any contaminants will ruin an entire batch. Food is an example of such a contaminant.

any contaminants will ruin an entire batch. Food is an example of such a contaminant.

This is a myth.

(It’s too late to edit my comment, but to be clear, food is a contaminant - it’s a myth that any amount of contaminant will ruin a batch...)

There's a big difference in the amount of leakage from the plastics when it's cold vs when it's heated - so a good step is to put whatever you're heating on a plate before you put it in the microwave (or oven, or…), rather than heating it in the plastic it came in.

Also, avoid using dishwasher and dryer. But some types of plastic cookware is just a pain to clean up. The only solution is avoid buying any plastic cookware or food container completely.

Unheated food-grade plastic is generally okay, but when exposed to heat or UV light, you have a big problem. This paper is worth reading [0], according to their experiment, almost all commercially available plastic products—independent of the type of resin, product, or retail source—leached chemicals after being exposed to UV lights or heat.

[0] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3222987/

Isn't that common sense anyway? Especially the packaging it came with?

Lots of plastic containers for left over food claims to be microwave friendly.

There are several pre-made food products on the market with plastic containers that instructs you to cook them in microwave with the plastic packaging still on. One product I tried recently even had a little tab on the plastic wrapper that would start whistling when the food was done. I think I tried it that one time. I don't usually buy things like that.

It’s interesting they call out vinyl shower curtains but not vinyl and polyester clothing, which we wear on our bodies all day.

Even most cotton shirts and jeans tend to be a blend with synthetic plastic fibers because it stretches and breaths better.

I'm not sure you should specifically be worried about vinyl shower curtains, but vinyl is a specific concern, because to get the form of vinyl that's soft and pliable, the vinyl is mixed about 50/50 with phthalates that are known endocrine disruptors.

That said, phthalates are used in tons of stuff, and it's not fully clear to me which sources are the most important. I've replaced my soap/shampoo/shaving creams with phthalate free versions. It's also present though in basically all plastic tubing, which is known to leach phthalates and is used very extensively in food production machinery.

> I've replaced my soap/shampoo/shaving creams with phthalate free versions

How do you identify these? You mean there are products that advertise themselves to be phtalate free? Or that you are actively looking for phtalate composition in the products you buy?

I search https://www.ewg.org/ to get non-toxic products

They’ll advertise it clearly on the bottle.

If it’s in plastic tubing, would that include all homes with pex piping? Water dispensers in refrigerators? Seems impossible to get away from.

It will definitely leach from PVC pipe. I'm not sure about PEX. Yes to water dispensers in refrigerators.

In general, the problem will be worse with smaller diameter pipes/tubes due to surface area/volume ratio, worse if the water has been standing in the pipe/tube, and worse if the water is hot.

These chemicals are extremely difficult to get away from. I saw a study where they tried to get volunteers to take a reasonably large set of actions to reduce their levels of BPA and Phthalates, and they were able to get them down to about half the original levels, but not lower.

I think there's two issues.

The first is that I recall the shower curtain problem was related to the heat / steam floating around in the shower which facilitated shedding of particles and also ingestion. Having the "plastic" clothing just on the body may be less bad.

Also, and more importantly, I think people who are conscious about those things tend to wear less plastic fibers but won't necessarily think about the shower curtain.

For example, except for full on technical sportswear (think biking shorts), I never wear polyester or other synthetic fibers in clothing that goes directly on my skin. I used to avoid it because, for the most part, I've found that polyester is less breathable, tends to stick a lot, etc. I try as much as possible (I check the labels) to stick to cotton / linen (for the summer) / wool (for the winter). Now, the whole "plastics are bad" thing doesn't really push me to reevaluate my choice.

Or carpet.

> Even most cotton shirts and jeans tend to be a blend with synthetic plastic fibers because it stretches and breaths better.

Just look at the labels...

It's not easy, almost impossible, to do overnight. Try it one thing or habit at a time. Single out one thing which is harmful, and commit to finding and integrating a substitute.

Also, remember "cleaning" products besides a select few like Bronner's have the same type of crap in them. "Eco-friendly" ones like Seventh Gen and Meyer's are bullshit if you look at the ingredients list.

Let's all take a moment to consider how blessed we are to have those ingredients list, by the way.

> For example, almost all the food I buy is in plastic containers.

I stopped buying these a while ago. Buy fresh veggies, classic pasta/rice/lentils or whatever you fancy, meat from the butcher if you eat meat, I skip anything I can't identify or anything that I couldn't make myself at home with regular ingredients.

It's super restrictive but you get rid of literally 99% of junk food. You are what you eat, quite literally

Not that simple. The paper your butcher uses also has plastic most likely. Most paper products do these days.

You nonetheless minimize exposure that way to be clear.

It's difficult to do it all at once. Taking little steps might help: instead of using plastic tupperware, use glass; instead of buying beans in a can, buy dry beans; balcony garden? Sure!

Even if some things are impossible to do, it's imo best to not pile on top of those problems issues that aren't impossible to solve.

Even dry beans come in a plastic bag...

If so, and while microplastics may still be an issue, leeching due to wet beans being in contact with the plastic lining of their cans is not. Along the same lines as my original general message: a bit at a time.

Yeah this is my issue. I have to drink bottled water for water quality reasons. How am I supposed to avoid plastic there?

This is very much a cultural thing. Over here, you can easily get bottled water in glass bottles. The delivery services will pick up your tray with empty bottles to be reused. That's reuse after cleaning, not recycling!

Europe, I guess? I had a talk late last year with a local brewery (traditinal bavarian one, family operated since the 1400s). And apparently everyone, especially Coca Cola, is going for glass right now. To the point reusable glass bottles are an actual bottle neck for them. Mind you, depsite the Covid caused demand drop. That was quite an interesting fun fact for me.

One thing I miss about Germany is S.Pellegrino in glass bottles. Since I moved to Belgium it has been incredibly hard to come by glass-bottled water.

I've found glass-bottled water easy to find in Belgium, I buy cases of Ginstberg (they have both still and carbonated water) in glass bottles in a supermarket here in West Flanders.

I know at least a couple places where you can buy it (Huis Maria in Harelbeke, Vanuxeem in Ploegsteert, so both Flanders and Wallonia) so I would assume those to be widespread enough throughout the country.

To me coming from France it was Belgium that was the easier place to find glass-bottled water :)

I only shop at AH and Delhaize, the choice isn't that great there.

Can't you just drink tap water, or if it really tastes that bad use a water filter. The idea of buying a new bottle every time you want a drink of water seems insane to me!

I assumed they were talking about reused glass bottles. Here (so in Belgium) I buy cases of water bottles with a deposit and return them empty.

The bottles are reused, and the water tastes a lot better than at least my tap water (in Antwerp - the tap water comes from a stagnant canal used for merchandise shipping, and last year for example it turned green and smelled of algae for a while after a ship carrying fertilizer capsized).

I have a filter for cooking/making tea. However there's something about S.Pellegrino and others that makes it taste much better. And the filtered water has completely different taste in the first day vs the rest of the month.

And yeah, you usually give the bottles back. However, it's much more common in Germany than in Belgium, it seems. I have never seen a line to give the bottles back in Gent, unlike Berlin.

Filtered water? Sure, the filter cartridges are plastic, but I’d guess that you’d reduce your plastic usage in general.

Couple of options:

(a) I used to live in Malaysia where tap water wasn't drinkable as-is, but filtering and boiling made it drinkable and tasted just fine. Hot water dispensers are pretty standard to have in most Asian homes; just put the water through a filtering pitcher before pouring into the hot water dispenser.

(b) Subscribe to those 5-gallon big blue bottles and a dispenser. They get actually reused instead of downcycled.

Blue plastic bottles leach endocrine disruptors, either BPA or BP-S.

There are some pretty decent filters out there that are not crazy expensive, guess it depends on how bad the water is though.

Get a water filter and drink tap. They sell filters made primarily out of steel.

> I have to drink bottled water for water quality reasons

Why is your water quality bad?

Drink Voss? and re-fillVOSS bottles with distilled water?

You can get distilled water delivered in very large glass jugs (4 gallons i think?)

Some thought that distilled water may not be desirable:


very minor concern vs. benefits you get.

This is mostly about dissolved minerals, carbonates etc, and you should be able to control trivially.

I know I would prefer to know exactly what's in my water.

It's reasonable to work on the factors that you can easily influence. Once you've tackled those, you can see what else you can still fix. It doesn't need to be all or nothing.

My instincts have told me not to do any of this. All my life I've seen people microwaving stuff in plastic containers. I find it repulsive. I don't even own a microwave. I keep leftovers in bowls and reheat it in the oven or in a saucepan. I've always hated everything plastic really. And anything that decreases air quality. How people can spray tiny droplets of god knows what into the air and subsequently breathe then in is beyond me.

What part of taking out the food you buy out of its plastic container before microwaving it is impossibly hard?

> I really want to do this, but it seems impossibly hard. For example, almost all the food I buy is in plastic containers.

Hacker News: colonizing to Mars is straightforward and natural. Buying vegetables fresh or organizing a farmers market is impossibly hard and goes against human nature.


This point of view is self-exterminating, which is why having it is dumb.

What’s the argument here? Consent doesn’t really exist until the deed is done and someone is born…and although death is inevitable, it’s also a very small part of one’s life.

> forcing people to be born without their consent

How could someone consent to be born?

I was taught that a zygote was just gamates way of making more gamates.

How can they even be forced when they don't exist for that matter?

How about all the people you're preventing to be born without their consent? Surely you see how idiotic this argument is from the other side?

This is the most important part of the essay:

   Uncertainty remains, research sometimes conflicts and biological pathways aren’t always clear. There are competing theories about whether the sperm count decline is real and what might cause it and about why girls appear to be reaching puberty earlier, and it’s sometimes unclear whether an increase in male genital abnormalities reflects actual rising numbers or just better reporting.
You should maintain a very low prior probability of this being true without more information. Remember correlation usually != causation


There are a lot of other possible causes for all the these declines. (obesity and lower physical activity being only the most likely-seeming to me)

Obesity being a correlation might mean it is also a symptom. We already know from a couple studies that people with the same activity level and calorie intake are significantly more overweight than in the 80s. One leading hypothesis is endocrine disruptors.

Possible, but I would tend to bet its just a high sugar and sweetener diet more than anything. Obesity is not uniform at all. In pre covid days of seeing many people, I would rarely see anyone who is obese (northeast american), but that's because I'm in an upper middle class bubble. These days I'm pretty good about avoiding heating up plastics and what not. Growing up it wasn't on our radar at all. Point I'm trying to make is plastic exposure is pretty high for all populations, whereas diet varies tremendously by social class, and the composition of it has changed significantly since the 80s.

Also we traded cocaine and cigarettes for pot and booze (alcohol usage is much higher than the 80s).

I'd be very wary of any studies that ask people to identify "activity level."

That does seem the weak point. The body can conserve calories in many hard to observe ways.


If something could be very harmful you should avoid it out of precaution. And many of these chemicals are known endocrine disrupters, so just because there is no slam dunk evidence there is a lot of circumstantial and anecdotal evidence that indicates a problem with these substances.

Plus, the people who avoid them are almost invariably healthier, so taking steps to avoid them seems to have positive effects anyways.


"Chemicals in plastics damage babies' brains and must be banned immediately (cnn.com)"


If only plastic utensils and other plastic one-use expendables had never been taken as good idea in the first place

I think many health problems are related to not a few single causes, but to a cocktail of problems, some chemical, other purely lifestyle(sleep, food, exercise).

It's humbling how much AND little we know about processes in the body. Just read the article and comments some days ago about antidepressants. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26197140

Except most babies seem to be fine, so maybe the fear is overblown?

I think it should be kept in check, as it seems all sorts of nasty stuff can be mixed into plastic. But many plastics seem to be fine.

There is also poisonous stuff in plants, including wood.

I mean, people probably said the same thing about leaded gasoline. Just because things are “fine” doesn’t mean they’re ideal.

As someone who has had to do IVF for our child and go through the challenge of figuring our what to do to try and improve sperm quality, I can tell you once you start looking into it, basically everything about modern life is bad for sperm. Heat, radiation, plastic, micro plastics, soya, tap water, Teflon, antibacterial soap, underpants, western diet. It’s a perfect storm.

If you’re going though it though I offer a ray of hope that it was possible to sufficiently avoid these things, at least temporarily, and it made a very large difference (4X better within 6 months) and resulted in a now 3 year old child.

Soy isn't that easy: https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/Medical-me...

There was one study with 99 participants. A counter argument is Asia, where men eat a lot more soy and don't have reduced sperm count.

They've also eaten soy for much longer than others, literally thousands of years(1) at this point. That's more than long enough to evolve countermeasures if it did have an effect. They also eat soy differently, mainly in products which are fermented.

1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soybean#History

I think a lot of it comes down to how it's processed... fermentation probably made it safer to consume over time.

I think the aversion to dietary fat for the past 3 generations combined with refined seed/bean oils has been hugely detrimental to human health as well. Not to mention, even with reductions, we still consume a massive amount of sugar per capita compared to pre-wwii levels.

It’s crazy isn’t it. So many foods they market as ‘low fat’ they just took out the good fat and replaced it with sugar- which your body immediately turns into fat anyway, and messes up your hormones and insulin sensitivity along the way.

And the only oil we’ve introduced into the diet is trans fat which the body mistakes for good fat and just starts building stuff with it, and then it all breaks down and you get heart disease.

You couldn’t make it up

>> aversion to dietary fat for the past 3 generations combined with refined seed/bean oils

Aye... This is probably the first medically/scientifically prescribed diet for society at large and it has been a disaster.

And the worst thing is, as we've learned from Big Tobacco, They're -never- going to admit it. Nestle, Kraft, etc. will stop at nothing to make sure they aren't liable for the way they cut costs at the expense of generations of human beings health.

They're definitely bad actors, but the whole thing is/was much bigger than just packaged food companies. National medical authorities. Your local doctor or nutritionist. The food pyramid hanging in your classroom.

We're not good at mea culpas and the baggage hangs around.

Oils are dietary fats though?

Refined seed oils are synthetic chemicals that just happen to use seeds as a feedstock in a relatively novel chemical reaction.

Yes one can quibble that cooking is a chemical reaction, but it’s one that is both simple and that we’re long since evolved to tolerate.

I stick to mechanically produced vegetable oils and animal fats. It’s not only healthier but it tastes better too.

However, a healthy diet depends a great deal on your race. A traditional Inuit diet is observably healthy for Inuit persons, but probably best avoided by people like me. However there are no humans that are evolved to eat seed oils.

> However there are no humans that are evolved to eat seed oils.

I am cautious about these sorts of issues and typically buy the least processed oils (and foods in general) that I can find, however it is my understanding that humans around the world have been producing and eating (mechanically expressed) sesame seed oil for thousands of years. I can't say whether that has any impact on whether people are "evolved to eat it", but it's certainly not something new: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2FBF02859136

You’re right. I consider chemically extracted the default, but I should have been explicit that I didn’t mean mechanically expressed seed oils.

There isn't any "chemically extracted" seed oil, at least not with a chemical reaction. The use of a chemical reaction is indicated by "interesterified" or "hydrogenated". That isn't used for extraction; it alters the melting points.

The use of solvents to extract oils isn't a chemical reaction. It's not really different from using CO2 to extract caffeine from coffee, using water to extract tea from tea leaves, or using alcohol to extract vanilla flavor from vanilla beans. The common solvent for oil extraction is hexane, which is removed by boiling it off with a vacuum and/or heat.

The solvent-extracted oil will have unmodified molecules. The proportions of the various molecules may differ because the ease with which they are extracted will depend on the processing conditions. You get different proportions of molecules in the mix if you change the temperature, pressure, time, or solvent. For some use cases you might prefer one mix or another. You could get a different viscosity, melting point, or smoke point.

Maybe I'm being pedantic, but most of the stuff done to refined oils are physical processes, not chemical

Where does one find mechanically produced vegetable oils? I'm piqued, thanks in advance.

Look for “expeller pressed” on seed oils (canola, etc).

Now I see why they’re advertising the method of extraction...

Olive oil is the most obvious one

Big mechanical squishers squishing olives.

> I stick to mechanically produced vegetable oils and animal fats.

Can you give examples of what you use?

One does not need 1000 years to evolve. One generation where soy intolerance leads to death through famine/malnutrition is enough. That is why cultural differences are so important to take into account.

That first sentence is an awful way to kick off a comment about population genetics.

The point is if we make a population-wide change within a generation, we will see natural selection within the next. Not sure what your point is.

They also ferment a great deal of the soy they consume.

So when bullies bully people for eating tofu, they being especially stupid because tofu is the one form of soy that isn't "anti-masculine"?

There are many types of tofu, only some of which are fermented: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tofu#Varieties

Almost 95 percent of the soybeans grown in the U.S. are genetically modified.


In 2007, over half the world’s soybean crop was genetically modified; a higher percentage than any other crop.


Asians are probably eating less GMO soy (than Americans) and we don't really know what those genetic modifications do in terms of human health. They are typically made to improve profit in some fashion, not to improve human health.

> They are typically made to improve profit in some fashion, not to improve human health.

The main goals of GMOs are to increase yield and protect against disease / pests, which is practically the same goal we've had for thousands of years of crop domestication. Take for instance wild pre-domesticated maize vs present day non-GMO maize[1] and you'll see what "natural" crop selection does. Not only do we select for strains that are healthier and with more defenses, we also select strains that give us more bang for buck. Over the years, we've also selected for: texture, size, adaptability to different climates and soil compositions, lower concentration of toxic compounds, etc. Cassava and potatoes, for instance, can be deadly in their "natural" variety, and needed some "help" to get to the varieties we eat today. GMOs are simply the result of applying modern science in combination with what we've learnt from different cultures over thousands of years, to speed this process and hopefully prevent famine and starvation.

I'm not saying all GMOs are good for you, but I just wanted to counter this idea that we don't know what effects GMOs have on us -- we've been eating GMOs for millenia. Edit: I should also strain that I fully support questioning GMOs and holding them to a high standard as a society, especially when the modifications are made for reasons which are to a high degree simply for profit. One example of that would be crops that are engineered to be infertile / yield no seeds.

PS: I'm more concerned about chemical pesticides, especially in the scale at which they're used. Microplastics, heavy metals, soil depletion, etc. Many modern agricultural practices are not good for the environment, objectively speaking. But I wouldn't just blindly lump GMO in the same group just because it's also modern.

1. https://www.newswise.com/articles/tiny-genetic-tweak-unlocke...

we've been eating GMOs for millenia.

That's a little like saying "There's zero difference between traditional animal husbandry and cloning."

Sorry, I think there is a meaningful distinction between traditional human intervention in plant varieties and the more recent intervention called GMO. Most of the world seems to agree that there is a distinction, enough so that we invented new language for what it is we are doing.

Edit in response to your edit:

But I wouldn't just blindly lump GMO in the same group just because it's also modern.

That's an ugly thing to say and it's not far from a personal attack. There's no blindness on my part. I'm not lumping anything in just because it's modern.

I have a genetic disorder and pay enormous attention to the details of my diet because of it. I react poorly to soy products. Research and experience suggest that my firsthand negative experiences with soy may be related to the fact that most soy in the US is GMO.

My views here have nothing at all to do with unfounded assumptions, ridiculous neurotic views of "modern" things or anything of the sort.

Africanized "killer" bees are a result of traditional crossbreeding techniques gone awry. Don't romanticize traditional agriculture; mashing up genes randomly is not an inherently safer process.

I'm not romanticizing anything.

GMO is relatively new. We know a thimbleful of information about nutrition and health generally. We know even less than that about what more recent inventions do to the human body because there is simply less of a track record and time span in which to determine meaningful data and conclusions.

Saying "We don't know what this new thing does to our health" in no way romanticizes anything. It doesn't even implicitly suggest we know a heckuva a whole lot about the old thing. But the old thing is probably not going to randomly open up some metaphorical worm hole to some bizarre outcome and maybe the new thing will and we just haven't had enough of a track record to notice yet.

Thalidomide was briefly prescribed to pregnant women for nausea until they began having babies missing limbs because of it.

GMO isn’t that new is it? At this point the field is over half a century old? Right thaolidomide was really bad and we stopped using right away. GMOs enable us to support 7 billion people, without improved yields the world would probably starve. It’s good to question, but Questioning is different than fear mongering, there are very few wormholes

Food that subtly messes you up is notoriously hard to pinpoint.

I'm not fear mongering. I live with a genetic disorder. I've paid lots of attention to food chemistry over the past nearly two decades since getting a proper diagnosis.

I'm done with this discussion. This is the second comment accusing me of spreading fear. It's a ridiculous accusation and long experience tells me it will make zero difference how I reply. It only gets uglier from here.

Did you mean half a century? The effects of nutrition on a population cannot be very well established in less than a decade...

I did, thank you! Very true 5 years wouldn’t be very long at all.

genes get arbitrarily modified by evolution, breeding, or manual intervention. could a gmo food cause a problem? sure, so could a food whose genes were modified by breeding or accident of nature

Evolution and selective breeding don’t arbitrarily modify DNA. The actual methods are small random changes, copying from some other location possibly backwards, or removing segments. GMO significantly expands what kinds of changes are possible.

In practice the difference is generally not that significant, but there is some increase in risks.

Personally, I would prefer a different label for new GMO foods. Presumably, the odds of finding an undiscovered issue drops over time. So using a different label for the first 20 years is reasonably appropriate. Plenty of people are going to take slightly higher risks, so they can benefit from and thus test new cultivars.

> Evolution and selective breeding don’t arbitrarily modify DNA.

Except for random mutations, which are, well, random changes to DNA.

There is a reason the nightshade family[1] is so varied.


Small random changes yes, but long specific sequences become exponentially less likely. People on the other hand can decide to add say the first 100,00 digits of Pi or some other marker for internal use. Picking a useful sequence is hard, but we have the technology to add any specific sequence as long as the plant can survive it.

So it’s not just a question of random chance adding something harmful at this point, but also malicious actors. Someone could easily decide to try and reduce the human population by reducing fertility or whatnot and new GMO crops aren’t tested for such things.

Do you know how they discovered methods of genetic modification? Retroviruses in nature. Look at HPV for one as a cause for cancer and the number of viruses embedded in human DNA. Evolution includes all of those.

Of course /nothing/ meets the goal posts of "arbitrary" including state of the art genetic modification.

We have moved past simply copying and pasting DNA and can now add arbitrary genetic sequences to any organism. Natural rice retroviruses are unlikely to carry jellyfish DNA let alone something designed from scratch.

As I said it’s probably not that meaningful of a difference, but malicious actors have serious tools to work with here not just random changes.

> Sorry, I think there is a meaningful distinction between traditional human intervention in plant varieties and the more recent intervention called GMO.

One is a semi-random process where an unknown (but large!) number of genes are modified in the hopes of getting a few desired good traits to express themselves.

The other is a targeted change to the smallest number of genes to get a single desired good trait to be expressed.

Imagine you are going in for surgery to remove a lump, and the doctor tells you there are two options, he can cut out 20 lumps of flesh, and good chance he'll get the one you want removed, or he can remove just the lump that is causing a problem.

Which of the two options would you choose?

GMO is the later. Traditional breeding is the former.

If people want to criticize WHAT modification was done via GMO, great! Lots of good debate there, maybe inserting some particular gene is a bad idea. But let's have that discussion, not "all GMO is bad!"

Because "all GMO is bad" is nonsensical. GMO isn't some process that turns food into poison. It just changes it, in a more controlled way than breeding changes it.

Because "all GMO is bad" is nonsensical.

That's an extremely gross misinterpretation of my point which boils down to "The effects may be different on different populations due to variables you are overlooking, such as (for example) they could be eating fundamentally different plants that happen to go by the same name."


The degree to which people actively twist my comments to railroad me with their bizarre garbage makes it enormously difficult to participate here in good faith at all. I should probably go get some other hobby and stop wasting my time on a bunch of people hellbent on trying to make me look like a nutter no matter how mild and reasonable a point I am trying to make.

My apologies. When I added the "blindly lump ..." sentence, I didn't wasn't replying directly at your comment, but rather in reference to the worrying trend amongst anti-gmo movements to lump any GMO related practices in the same basket.

> That's a little like saying "There's zero difference between traditional animal husbandry and cloning."

This is a very interesting topic, actually! I can't comment on animal husbandry (much less dolly style cloning), but cutting (cloning) is a very common way to propagate crops, and has been done for longer than we care to know. It's also the natural way in which some plants and fungi propagate. There are many benefits to cloning, but there are also downsides: when disease affects one, it affects all your clones. You can protect against that by seed propagation, crossing, etc, but then you have a less predictable and consistent crop, which in the modern market is sometimes frowned upon.

I know most farmers will pick consistency over variety any time of the day because they have to make a living, and most people won't buy greenish tomatoes, yellow or green oranges, white artichokes, etc. People also expect their fruits and veggies to taste as expected, so it's difficult to sell mixed variants.

Note: I should also say I'm from a family of farmers so I'm probably biased towards defending our practices -- in our case we grow citruses, stone fruits, artichokes, aubergines, melons, etc. (not big-agro scale, think more cooperatives in rural Spain), and I do have my personal opinions on traditional techniques vs. modern vs. big-ag, use of pesticides, overstressing the soils, etc. I'm also from an area that has suffered bad droughts and deforestation over generations so I'm also not one to romanticize about traditional farming methods and some traditional attitudes. Take whatever I say with a pinch or more of salt!

I've more or less said twice I'm leaving this discussion. I'm only replying here because I think your comment here is a good faith, but misguided, attempt to engage.

My initial comment was just to make the point "Maybe you can't use Asians and their experiences as a rebuttal for some American study because maybe it's an apples to oranges comparison."

I could have said that without mentioning GMO. It's not necessarily hugely pertinent to the point.

But everyone is latching on to that detail and this has gotten enormously whackadoodle.

I stand by my original point. I even stand by everything else I've said here.

But other people reacting like I'm some strident anti GMO nutter for mildly observing that "GMO plants may be fundamentally different from non GMO plants" is not something I have any desire to engage with further.

Your pesticide/herbicide primary concern is a defining feature of GMO staples: glyphosate tolerance.

I.e. you're going to find a lot more Roundup in GMO end products than non-GMO.

Exactly. My 3 main concerns with GMO are anything related to pesticides, anything transgenetic, and the privatization of biology thru IP capture.

I'm sorry those risks fall under the rubric of GMO and not "corporatism" and "theft". Blame the GMO rhetoric on big agriculture.

A helpful contrasting example for the apologists:

Wheat with better nutrition and yields: good.

Wheat which requires matching pesticides, herbicides; where seeds are sterile; where seedstocks cannot be shared, reused, resold; where wheat incorporates genetic code from other plants: bad.

GMO soy is treated with different pesticides than non-GMO. What we eat still has some of the pesticide in it. It’s worth a considering the impact of the pesticide, too

> Asians are probably eating less GMO soy

I may be out of the loop here, but why do you say that? Are Asians particularly more GMO-averse than Americans?

I say that based on the two data points I quoted with sources. Presumably 'more than half' is less than 95 percent in most cases.

You're probably right. I just wasn't sure that production and consumption of GMO soy would be so neatly linked like that, because so much of that soy is going to livestock.

Yeah, the lack of certainty of a conclusion is why the word "probably" is in that sentence. It's a qualifier. It indicates I don't actually know for certain and this is guess work. (The guess work preceded the googling up of hand-wavy numbers. It's an internet discussion, not a defense of a PhD dissertation.)

I didn't suggest otherwise.

Sorry, my 17 year old high school self seems to be alive and well, after all these years. (Insert jokes about my dotage.)


It's interesting to look at such studies, here is an example:


So if you have low BMI you improve sperm concentration if you eat soy 2-8 times a week? Less or more than that is worse? Data is not convincing, and it is easy to find studies which don't agree.

Yeah Asia is an interesting one for this. In Japan at least they eat a tonne of fish and seaweed which has a lot omega 3 which is really, really good for sperm so maybe there’s other factors.

Like I’ve said on other comments. When you’re in the situation of having to figure it out, it’s simpler to just blanket cut out anything with any evidence whatsoever. If it improves your chances 1% then it all adds up.

Plus soy isn’t even that great tasting. You aren’t gonna miss it!

Lard from pasture raised pork is also higher in omega 3. In the USA we switched to a "meat hog" around the 1920-30s for better industrialization. Just a heads up pasture pigs like Large Black hogs or wild boar do have a different flavor but you can buy the lard alone to cook with.

What the heck is a meat hog? Also curious where does that omega 3 come from? Can’t be much in pasture grass? Is it like free range beef / chicken where they get more nutrients from accidentally eating a bunch of insects?

Isn't the difference in Asia because they eat less processed soy compared to the US and EU?

I was eating lots of miso, tofu and soy sauce when I lived in japan without issue. In europe i tried soy milk once and got an instant allergic reaction (itchy soar throat). The difference being soy milk is just soaked, ground up, boiled soy bean..

This is where i think science has been failing us. I have a couple similar stories where I have various reactions to one product but not a very similar product from another vendor. When that happens it would be really helpful if there were a research lab/etc where one could show up with both products and basically say, product A does the following to me, while product B doesn't.

The first time I really noticed this was ~15 years ago I was on a spinach salad kick that started when I purchased an organic pre-packaged salad kit (as In I was almost exclusively eating just spinach salad for a couple weeks because I really liked it and my kitchen was being remodeled). Anyway, those kits were quite expensive, so I switched to a cheaper non organic spinach and my own dressing. I started to have some pretty severe intestinal distress over a couple days, and swapped the spinach for a 3rd organic brand and the problem went away. But because the no organic brand was cheaper I bought a couple other bags assuming it was probably just a bad batch and I had gotten hit by a bacterial infection/whatever and it returned.

So I've had similar issues with coffee (gotten ichy all over when I changed brands and couldn't figure it out for a couple months), and a few other products. My Dr describes me as "allergy prone" but its not as simple as I'm allergic to spinach, or coffee. I seem to have a low grade allergy to something that is sometimes present across multiple food sources. I suspect without any proof at this point its a pesticide or herbicide, since I seem to have far fewer reactions if I'm tending to stick with organic leafy vegetables, and away from crops which have traditionally used more industrial farming processes.

If you look at the pesticide/herbicide studies what is abundantly clear in the US, that just like e-coli its hard to predict/track which foods are affected at any given point . The food growing and distribution system is to complex. So while a farmer may be following all the rules, he may be downwind (or whatever) of another farmer growing and spraying a different crop. Then his crop gets mixed into a larger batch and it goes complexly undetected because in low doses many of these products are considered non-harmful.

Someone once told me allergic reaction to soy may actually be allergic reaction to GMO soy, not soy per se.

There may be very different stats from one country to another on how much GMO soy gets used.

Can you link a study that shows GMO soy having different proteins that would cause a specific reaction vs. non gmo? Otherwise it seems like you are hear to just spread anti gmo fud, which really hurts actual discourse around GMOs.

I replied to one person who said they consumed a lot of soy in one situation with zero problem and then reacted really strongly and negatively to soy in another and I suggested a possible explanation, a possible difference between the two soy sources. I did so as food for thought for that one individual and I don't really care what anyone else thinks of the comment.

I can't speak for other Asian countries, but here in Indonesia tofu and tempeh (fermented soybeans) are a lot more common than in Europe.

Weight loss and proper exercise will probably deliver 99% of the improvements for 99% of the people. Stressing about heat, radiation, micro plastics, or other random stuff seems like extra stress for not that much benefit.

Most people in Western world are either out of shape, or straight up obese. It makes sense that, that will have huge negative effects on fertility.

> Weight loss and proper exercise will probably deliver 99% of the improvements for 99% of the people.

In addition to be factually incorrect, consider how what you said sounds to the many people who are healthy, active but are having problems with something they thought would be easy. This is very stressful for many people, seeming especially cruel after years of worrying about accidental pregnancy, and the medical treatments are a figurative (and often literal) pain in the ass. Unqualified strangers taking the opportunity to offer judgmental “advice” is not something anyone wants even in general, and it’s certainly not more appropriate in this situation.

We spent about 5 years on this (and have a great 3yo). If anyone reading this has questions, feel free to ask.

At least in men, there is a very clear mechanism. If you have excess body fat, your aromatase may be overexpressed, and if so, you will convert more of your testosterone to estradiol. This interacts with the hypothalamus' negative feedback loop, lowering your GnRH, (and therefore your LH/FSH) making you less fertile and lowering your testosterone until homeostasis is achieved.

I was recently watching a video on Doublespeak[0], one of the types of doublespeak is to bombard the audience with technical jargon which means you automatically win, unless they know more technical terms than you do! In your case, your comment does not mean anything to me (or probably 99% of the HN users). Instead of this, you could at least cite a reputable source for this claim, this would be 100 times more effective and also useful for the readers. Cheers.

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qP07oyFTRXc

I get what you’re saying but I don’t think that’s what’s happening here at all. His main statement is that there’s an biological explanation which is perfectly comprehensible. Backing it with a link instead of stating the explanation himself may be preferable but that doesn’t mean he did it to shut anyone down or that it should have that affect.

I understand that and I really really want to believe them. But this biological explanation could be obvious (to a biologist) or could be heavily controversial (among biologists). A reputable source would be helpful for us the non-biologist to know that this is either common knowledge or this is the SOTA, recent breakthrough, or simply disputed theory. That's what I was trying to say. Cheers.

I found your tone entitled than the one you were responding to. No one here is under any obligation to spoon feed another. Comments are there, take it or leave it. In the era of search engines, if you care enough, you can do your own follow up.

I personally find this entitlement culture annoying. If one really wants more information and leads one can ask for that without a lecture about doublespeak

A reputable source typically does not help non-experts dilucidate whether something is controversial in the field, except if the document specifically caters to non-experts. But then the information is watered down and analogies strain the actual information.

Sometimes it will be useful to provide appeals to authority as a shortcut to skeptical verification of internet facts, but it seems wrong to attack the fundamental basis of clear communication - asserting a clear and concrete statement that enables you to independently check if it's true or who thinks the same.

We can't go around the internet citation-needing every statement; you should find the equilibrium of faith-disbelief-verification that works for you, that's the only thing that scales.

I get that it's slightly esoteric, but this is all pretty basic biochem/endocrinology.

Here's a small study that demonstrates that losing weight can increase fertility:


Additionally, this mechanism is why drugs like clomifene and anastrazole work for male infertility.

Ha, "pretty basic biochem/endocrinology", followed by a link to a 10-year-old study of 43 men which concludes:

"This study found obesity to be associated with poor semen quality and altered reproductive hormonal profile. Weight loss may potentially lead to improvement in semen quality. Whether the improvement is a result of the reduction in body weight per se or improved lifestyles remains unknown."

It's just bio terminology. I can't tell if it's correct biology but the words are neither nonsense nor obscure.

I did not say they are nonsense, or obscure. I said "technical jargon".

I said to most of the audience, this doesn't mean anything, and to those that this means something, they probably already know this anyways.

So, for the general public (non-biologists) you have to either explain it differently (at least don't use acronyms). or at least cite a reputable website so that we, normies, know you are not trolling!

This is a forum for technical discussion. Use google if you want to to understand something and you don't.

It is unreasonable and not the goal of this forum use a level of discourse here so that all comments can be understood by general public. This a bunch of nerds chatting, not US Weekly.

I think your comment, particularly your use of the phrase "bombard the audience with technical jargon", is a much better example of double speak than then comment you're replying to.

rhinoceraptor gave such a clear explanation of the process, that I'd honestly pay for an entire set of bio and chem mechanic breakdowns prepared by them.

It's not that esoteric... spend the same amount of time you did on watching that Youtube video on reading about the topic. Alternatively, search for questions on Youtube and you will have a similar explanation read out to you from a selection of 40,000 different bodybuilders.

That video (which has nothing to do with biology, and is related to discussion and arguments, the thing we are doing now) is 16 minutes long. Are you seriously suggesting that with 16 minutes of reading biology I will know:

  * What is aromatase and what is the relationship between an overexpressed aromatase and excess body fat
  * What is estradiol and what is the possible reasons for converting testosterone to estradiol
  * What is the negative feedback loop in the hypothalamus and what is the interactions between estradiol and the hypothalamus' negative feedback loop
  * What is GnRH and what causes the lowering of my GnRH
  * What is LH/FSH and why is it obvious that low GnRH causes a lower LH/FSH
  * How are these related to fertility
All of this in 16 minutes?

IMPORTANT: To be honest I am willing to read (obviously more than 16 minutes) to learn about this stuff, as you can see in my comment, I'm asking for something to read! a link to a place that explains these. Even if it takes more than 16 minutes. Of course, I'm sure somewhere on the internet these information exist. But just writing a claim without any citation, is not helpful.

Before asking for material to read you launched into a moral and self righteous lecture on doublespeak. I doubt whether that is the most effective or even a pleasant way to ask for information

You can't outsource your judgment. Do the research yourself if you want to understand something.

Doesn't just about everyone outsource their judgement on a regular basis? Most people rely on others to do tasks they either cannot do at all or as efficiently because we trust that our doctor, lawyer, programmer, sysadmin, carpenter, electrician, auto mechanic, etc. has better judgement than we have time to acquire.

What makes that work is what the person you're replying to asked for: sources. I don't get medical advice from random strangers on the street, I get it from people who have credentials or organizations which hire those people. When I get a contractor, I'm looking at their licenses to assume that they at least know how to install a dishwasher to code.


Did you really? You understood the "very clear mechanism"? Can you repeat the mechanism? Do you know what GnRH and LH/FSH are?

Does this comment prove to you that there is a biological explanation? Or does it say some technical terms that might be disputed? Maybe only a small portion of biologists think this way and the majority disagree!

I understand the English part! What I'm saying is this comment without a source doesn't prove a "very clear mechanism".

Note that I wasn't saying that it wasn't _ever_ true — only the 99% hyperbole. It'd be awesome if the solution was that simple and most of the couples I know would love to have something which could be done with that level of difficulty, expense, and personal risk.

Side question, any idea how being thin and inactive affect your sexual health? I'm not looking to have kids, but i've been slowly working on healthy activity primarily for my heart and longevity, but i've not heard anything conclusive on sexual health.

Searching for this stuff is difficult due to the lack of knowledge (on my side) and all the blog spam out there.

Being offended about someone saying obesity is bad for you is nonsense. Fine, someone is offended. Oh well.

And it is true - most issues are related to weight.

Yeah this is like people telling me my sleep apnoea will get better if I lose weight. Nevermind that I was underweight when I was diagnosed because my sleep issues had ruined my appetite.

I get that it will help a lot of people whose issues are caused or worsened by weight but those people will have doctors who can tell them, you don't need to make assumptions about my lifestlye, and even if you do it seems weird to assume I wouldn't have already been told that by my sleep specialist

I used to be really chubby, and increasing exercise barely changed it. My body decided to randomly change one day and the problem mostly went away. The body just plain has a mind of it's own.

But we are also not designed for desk jobs. Most of our ancestors sweated on farms or in quarries. One of the best pieces of evidence against Intelligent Design is that the designer forgot to design us for desk jobs.

In some communities, weight gain is a down-stream effect of "metabolic syndrome", and the "solution" isn't to count calories or exercise more - it's to simply eat _differently_.

Sugar is a particularly odious contributor to problems.

Like OP, my wife and I also struggled with infertility for a few years (two miscarriages, years of doing everything "right", and not getting pregnant.) We're finally pregnant, and out of the most dangerous time period.

Our traditional fertility doctor was pushing us hard to do IVF (we didn't want to), so we said "eh, thanks, we'll just take a break for a while."

I asked the doc if there was any association between diet and pregnancy, and she said no. I facepalmed so hard.

I wrote up notes on a book about sugar here: https://josh.works/notes-gary-taubes-case-against-sugar

Might be worth skimming the notes to determine if it's worth reading the book.

Oh, and for others trying to get pregnant, and curious to learn more about endocrine disruptors and the effects of diet and metabolic syndrome on fertility (for men and women) I'd recommend reading _It Starts With The Egg_ [0].

This book walks you, the reader, though a lot of recent research, boils it down to a "do this/don't do that" checklist at the end of each chapter, it was perfect for my engineering brain.

[0]: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21782260-it-starts-with-...

Curious on your age range. We also struggled with 3 miscarriages and most of our friends had the exact similar issues and had to conceive via IVF. There were more IVF babies than natural pregnancies in my group of friends. We were lucky and didn't need to resort IVF. We all waited till we were past 35 to have kids. Our fertility doctor said age makes a huge a difference and professionals are waiting till later in their life to have kids which makes it harder conceive with a healthy embryo.

> Curious on your age range.

This is going to be the dominant driver for female infertility. My wife and I waited until she was 32 and I was 40 and we struggled for two years. Eventually we talked to a doctor and both got tested. I was in the 98th percentile for sperm health, but unfortunately her egg production was closer to a woman 10 years older. We did IVF and got very lucky on the first try, with one viable embryo, who is now a curious and amazing four-year-old.

> We all waited till we were past 35 to have kids.

Many people were grandparents by that age 150 years ago.

I too have many friends who waited until their 30s to have children. Most ended up in IVF (or adopting.)

Fertility (not precisely the right term, but one commonly used) charts — based on age — are very steep. After the peak in the early to mid 20s, it plummets very quickly. For women, anyway.

The low-sperm count issue, on the other hand, is very curious... not entirely sure if they have a grip on the true cause.

I celebrated my 32nd birthday a few days ago. I'm one year older than my wife.

We've been trying to get pregnant now for 3 years. We tried IUIs (very different from IVF, think "turkey baster" a few times, to no success.

Ironically, it wasn't until we stopped trying to get pregnant that we got pregnant. We did a one-week intensive marriage counseling program (strongly recommended, not cheap, worth every penny of the $6k cost) and it possibly healed so much in our marriage we got pregnant _the week after the counseling_.

After trying, with great adherence to all the best practices, for the prior 3+ years.

I blame in part the extremely high housing costs in US metro areas. We are both in tech, but also want to live in a nice place (Golden, CO). Housing affordability is a joke, I have no doubt that the price of housing affected our child-rearing plans.

We bought a house in Golden (barely. Inflation and all, it's a stupid rigged system oppressive to everyone.)

Now I want to fix the housing cost problem here in Golden, in Lakewood, and ultimately in Denver.

It'll take some years, but if all goes according to plan, I'm going to die, peacefully, in my sleep, in about 80 years, within 150 feet of where I'm sitting right now.

I've got time to work on these affordability problems.

I'm shocked that any doctor's first recommendation isn't starting to do fertility awareness with ovulation test strips. I got pregnant on the first try with our second kid doing that. It was much more challenging for the first one and we even talked to a doctor who suggested fertility drugs. Thankfully, those weren't necessary in the end. Oddly, after we saw the doctor, we stopped trying as hard to conceive, and then it just happened on accident.

Really glad to hear you got pregnant. It makes me so happy now when people do after finding it so hard. It’s a shame this info isn’t more easily found by most people.

I had the exact same experience with doctors just saying there was nothing a man can do to improve fertility. “It’s just genetic”.

I also second the case against sugar. I should have called out refined sugar specifically in my list. That was one thing I cut out 100% even in ingredients lists (this is tough. It’s in EVERYTHING. Even loads of savoury things that have zero business having sugar in).

Side pondering - I’ve often wondered if McDonalds got a really raw deal from Super Size Me (great documentary) and that it was just the super size soft drinks that were the cause of problems - remember the guy in there who has eaten thousands of Big Macs? But he never had the drink. And he was thin as a rake (dunno how many kids he had though!)

Thanks for your kind words! It wasn't until we had the miscarriages that all these people came out of the woodwork, sharing their stories with us, about how difficult it was for THEM.

I, too, have tried hard to eliminate all sugar. We're not perfect, but we're way past the 80/20 principle of diet improvement.

I only eat twice a day (sometimes once) and the primary meal is a mushroom/spinach/egg omelet, usually with avocado or sardines, some tumeric/curcumin powder from Costco sprinkled on top, EVOO/Coconut oil, and usually some cheese.

Zero sugar, technically even zero carb.

Dinner varies a bit more, biased towards avoiding things that can be metabolized into blood glucose. It was my birthday recently, my wife got me an icecream cake. I protested a little as I tucked into it. :)

It's amazing the effect that avoiding processed sugar can have, and a little intermittent fasting baked in.

When my wife and I host family, I always am struck by how much work breakfast is. Extra eating, extra dishes, etc. My wife doesn't do that eating schedule, but it works for me.

Re: Super Size Me and the sugar - that's a great point! The soda is a particularly odious offender, I'd love to see the effect of eating just the burger every day.

If I recall, not only did the Big Mac guy not consume sodas, but he never had the fries either (a perfect storm of salt, fat, and simple carbs).

Yes good point! Thought I’d guess there’s vastly more sugar in the soda.

Remember that couple in there two who went BLIND when they stopped drinking soda. Crazy.

I'll agree with you that it was an interesting film. Morgan Spurlock is an admitted alcoholic which casts doubts on the liver claim.

Didn’t know that. They tested him before and after though right so would have been the difference they saw?

Allopathic medicine is a disaster, the overwhelming majority of the modern medical establishment refuses to acknowledge that diet has anything to do with health, where in reality diet is easily the largest contributor.

Western philosophy: "You are what you eat"

Western medicine: "What you eat is nearly irrelevant as long as you are not fat, at which point it's not what you eat it's how much and how much you exercise."

Also Western Medicine: "We don't understand why we've lost credibility in broad swaths of the population! Don't you see the degrees we've granted ourselves?"

My dad's a doctor, firmly rooted in the western style of things. He's blind to some of the ways western medicine's gotten it wrong. Taints the conversations we'd have, when I AM trying to get medical advice from him.

It's hard for him to get over me not wanting to take max doeses of painkillers, 3x/day, for a week straight, to "heal" lingering back pain.

I'm like "yeah, yeah, lets skip the meds part, and talk about healthy rehabilitation via strength training and stretching and all that". And he lectures me for my ignorance and resistance to "Established Medical Science".

While I tend to agree with you WRT to diet and exercise, I think this is a secondary issue to what's being described here, similar to how I think modern science and technology has skewed the natural selection process with a bias that may select for undesirable attributes. Some of this bias may be for good intentions (allowing less fertile couples to conceive) while some may have questionable outcomes (selection based purely on socioeconomic status). Again, I think these are separate issues. Efforts I worked with looked at effects of contaminants such as manganese artificially introduced in natural water systems but that's just one, there's dozens of concern.

The issue discussed in this article has quite a few biologists I've interacted with concerned which deal with products we redistribute or manufacturer back into the environment that may be causing these issues. Endocrine disruption is occurring in other species in the wild less or not clearly effected by the issues described above (selection bias, cultural biases in exercise/diet, etc.), and for all intents and purposes, seem to be going along with a sort of survival of the fittest model yet they're still having endocrine issues.

In the anthropocene era, it's quite possible some of our behaviors are causing this and it wouldn't be the first time: lead and CFCs come to mind in the past. We have what appears to be a smoking gun, but we still haven't identified the shooter. We should definitely improve the factors that we can like diet and exercise and look to remedy socioeconomic selection biases for reproduction but the issue at hand may be one you can't simply diet and exercise your way out of and we need to continue to investigate it and find the root cause.

"Some of this bias may be for good intentions (allowing less fertile couples to conceive) while some may have questionable outcomes (selection based purely on socioeconomic status)."

First let's not anthropomorphize nature, or natural selection. But secondly, in 1st world countries, the more money you make, the less likely you are to have kids! We've done a terrible job at incentivizing couples to have kids since women have entered and made up a good part of the work force, and it's hard to blame someone in a good career, married to someone in a good career, to take off 10-15 prime years of their lives to have children.

I think that waiting to have children until later (late 20's to early 30's) is a big problem in terms of fertility and successful child bearing. Unfortunately the human clock doesn't really jive with the "4 years of college, work a bit and then think about marriage and kids".

I don't have a conclusion except we might want to think about increasing the birth rates among high and medium earners in our populations where they are struggling, lest we become like Japan or other countries (some in Europe which depend on importing labor in order to satisfy demand)

I feel like a wealthier and wealthier population, slowly shrinking, might be the sustainable future we need. Yes there will be challenges, but geometric, or even linear, population growth of the human species is not sustainable.

I am not necessarily disagreeing but you're description matches closely to one of the distopian worlds in Asimov's Foundation Series.

'Solaria' is this planet of abundance with strict population controls and where robots do all the hard work and wealthy generation for their owners.

Shocking to think that our society would discount the future for the present...

On a serious note however, babies and a growing population is an enormous advantage to a nation. I would think it would be massively popular to increase benefits to those who are having children. Full disclosure, I found out my wife is pregnant yesterday, but still.

Babies and a growing population is an enormous advantage only if there are enough resources for everyone and they are distributed in such a form that does not end up cause social infighting. Otherwise it just contributes to instability.

There are also women who are infertile due to no fault of their own (e.g. cancer, etc.), why should they be excluded from any resources whatsoever due to something that is not their fault?

>There are also women who are infertile due to no fault of their own (e.g. cancer, etc.), why should they be excluded from any resources whatsoever due to something that is not their fault?

For the greater good of others, taking one for the team.

Nobody is excluded from any resources. Every person gains the benefit when they are a child.

Hey congratulations!

Thank you!

I often wonder if it's something like car tire dust. All those vehicles eroding away the tire material which then goes into the air, soil and water. It goes somewhere.

Exactly that was found to be responsible for mass killings of salmon in the Puget Sound, and the consequent deaths of orcas and other wildlife.

A rubberizer additive put in tires was getting atomized and then washed off into the streams. It makes salmon swim in circles until they die.

Does it do anything to people? We don't know.

> swim in circles until they die

Quite a metaphor when applied to people.

This falls under the umbrella of "particulate matter" and is studied quite a bit. I'm not that familiar with particulates from road dust (specifically from tire erosion), but particulate matter is frequently studied (though not as much for endocrine disruption, at least not that I am familiar with): https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Particulates

> modern science and technology has skewed the natural selection process with a bias that may select for undesirable attributes

But that's hardly "modern" at all. Any improvement since the dawn of time that increases survivability for any creature that otherwise could not have lived and bred without it would lead to that result. Where does one draw the line?

Absolutely agree that being generally healthy will make a difference.

But what if you aren’t over weight and already fairly healthy, like I was?

Then you have to look at other things too.

If you had to say what was the best intervention?

Unfortunately, I have no idea. I just did EVERYTHING. I was more concerned with making a baby than figuring out exactly what worked and what didn’t. There are just so many potential things it would require a lot of testing to know.

ah the old miracle of life.

We tried for several months but after starting and following a workout regimen for a few weeks... it just happened!

It's amazing what a little exercise can do for your body!

It takes 3 months or so for sperm to grow, so on that time frame the exercise can’t have made a difference to your sperm quality, it was probably fine already and you just had to wait to get lucky.

Unless you’ve been trying for over a year that’s just a perfectly normal amount of time for it to take anyway

I think it was maybe not on my side, specifically... but just don't tell my wife that. :)

> following a workout regimen for a few weeks.

This got a chuckle out of me sir.

I imagine the sperm sent you a memorandum of protest about your unhealthy lifestyle. Sure it was an illegal strike but it worked.

Overall this is good advice for anyone, so I think it's the best first step for anyone who's inactive or overweight. I'm not a doctor but I suspect this is how a doctor would approach it too.

I know it's anecdotal, but of my friends with fertility issues (3 couples who mentioned it to me), none are remotely overweight, they're regularly active, and they eat well. I'm sure inactivity and obesity are a major issue in regards to fertility, but I'm not personally seeing that.

I'll hold off on my order of the new Impossible Boner from Burger King.

Perhaps that has something to do with endocrine disruptors too.

Notably, fat retains fake estrogens such as parabens and pthalates because both are fat-soluble.

You might be accidentally making a counterpoint if it turns out that the retention of fake estrogens are what are mediating the effect.

Is it possible that endocrine disruption could be related to issues with physical fitness too? There are many factors, but this could also be one, perhaps.

No, I believe it's 53.18008%

We need to start smoking again to control the obesity. And stop taking anti-depressants.

throwaway due to personal health details:

Similar anecdote from a UK-based late-30s guy with a BMI in the 30ish range:

- no background health/illness issues. Non-smoker, occasional drinker (2-3 glasses a week).

- trouble with getting pregnant - checks on female were all A-ok.

- sperm analysis on me done.

- count & motability fine.

- morphology was low at 1% good-forms (minimum is IIRC 3% or above).

Several months later and re-tested: morphology was then at 4% - count & motability largely unchanged. DNA fragmentation was "normal" but not amazing (not tested initially)

What I did:

- significantly upped my standing desk usage - from sporadic use a few times a week, to perhaps 25-50% of every working day at a standing desk.

- changed underwear from tight-fitting "trunks" to looser "jersey" (not boxers - personally I hate boxers)

- slept naked instead of wearing trunks.

- almost entirely eliminated alcohol and caffeine, apart from the odd glass/cup maybe once or twice a month.

- anti-oxidant tablets ("condensyl") taken daily


- exercise & weight largely unchanged (I ran a few KMs maybe once or twice a week - this remained unchanged)

- diet (apart from caffeine and alcohol) largely unchanged - perhaps some small mild "improvements" in cutting back on sugar & fat and having more veg but nothing drastic or wildly different really.

I now have a naturally conceived 1 year old boy. Pregnancy + birth + delivery totally normal, baby all A-ok. It can happen - don't loose faith if the results are "bad". Good luck.

Hey thanks for replying and massive congrats on the little guy!

Weird how similar that was to me. Wonder how many other people there are like this where just that bit of advice + minor action could have made such a big difference to their lives instead of being told there’s nothing they can do.

Keep spreading the word!

So you started drinking bottled water, turned off the Wifi, eating sushi and going commando? Doesn't sound so bad, really.

Haha. I unfortunately did take it a bit more seriously. There was a point where if someone offered me a biscuit with my decaf tea my inner monologue would say “if you eat that biscuit you might never have children”. It was at least in that way the easiest diet I ever went on. 100% motivation!

Sounds like the biggest life change you made was dieting then?

What's so wrong with a biscuit?

Like I said, I was going for the nuclear option and biscuits have sugar in. Sugar makes you fat. Fat belly means less testosterone. This is part of the anti-western diet thing.

Also.. it's probably made of whichever processed grain/seed is worst and dosed with additives: preservatives, flavour, colour, texture. If something in food is bad for whatever reason, it's probably in the biscuit.

I find it quite poetic that modern man needs to go live by a lake, foraging naked for a few months to regain our reproductive viability.

What were the things you did? Did it improve testosterone levels too? If that is the mechanism, could you raise sperm count with artificial testosterone? Or would that be counterproductive?

If you take testosterone, your pituitary will tell your testicles that there is enough testosterone, and that they can chill out, so the testicles will produce less testosterone and less sperm.

This is why anabolic steroid users can develop shrunken (atrophied) testicles.

In addition, through enzymatic equilibrium, you will also produce more estrogen (excess testosterone is converted to estrogen and vice versa), which will further decrease male reproductive ability, and in sufficient quantities will stimulate breast gland growth.

In short, administering exogenous testosterone will have counterproductive reproductive consequences.

Interesting! Thanks for the explanation.

You'd probably hit diminishing returns when testicle shrinkage starts.

> less testosterone

That's it, no more donuts for me.

> Sugar makes you fat.

Nonsense. Overeating makes you fat, not a specific carb. Having a biscuit with a few grams of sugar is not going to impact your health in a meaningful way if you're not overeating.

> Overeating makes you fat, not a specific carb.

Eating sugar creates a cascade of hormonal knock-on effects that can make you fat.

I beg of you (especially if you're struggling with your weight!) to consider the alternatives to Calories-In/Calories-Out eating.

My dad is a doctor, he's _convinced_ it's all CICO (which is what was taught to physicians in the 70s, and today), he struggles with his weight, constantly, and is super unhealthy. He eats low-fat everything, and is in miserable physical shape.

He's blind to alternatives. It is unbecoming of a man of science to be so tied to a possibly-incorrect view of such an important topic.

Consider: https://josh.works/notes-gary-taubes-case-against-sugar

I'm a bit annoyed by the terminology here. CICO is as true as ever from a physics/physiology standpoint and I think it's good to acknowledge that.

_However_ some calories keep you hungry so it's probably _much_ easier to limit your calories on low-sugar than a high-sugar diet.

That's absolutely true for some people. My personal anecdote is that often when I eat something that's high in sugar I crave it more. I've done extensive nutrition planning and found lowering carbs reduces my appetite.

I'm well aware of Gary Taube. His over emphasis of the effects of simple carbs is not entirely supported by science. There is an effect but it's not as strong as he presents it.

If you find avoiding sugar helps you maintain a healthy diet than great, go for it. Do whatever works for you. But if your overall diet is a healthy balance then having a biscuit with tea is not going to negatively impact your health.

You are technically correct, but also missing the point.

It's like saying an alcoholic can still responsibly drink by stopping at one.

Re-read what I said. If abstinence is what you need then go for it. That's not the point I was making.

Re-think the comparison I gave. The point I was making is the fact some people can keep things under control and suffer no ill effects does not change the fact it's an addictive substance whose consumption leads to ill effect.

While you do caveat things in your second comment, both your original and second comment basically minimize the OPs "not even one" stance, even calling it "nonsense". Replacing everything you say with alcohol shows the disconnect; you wouldn't say similar things to an alcoholic who said "alcohol makes you intoxicated", saying that's nonsense (since there are plenty of substances that can make you intoxicated) and then proceed to tell them that one drink is fine.

One biscuit no, but perhaps it was easier for him to always say no instead of occasionally saying yes, which could easily turn into saying yes too often.

That was exactly it.

The difficulty of dieting (and life in general!) is decisions. By being so absolutist it made it easier to just do it automatically rather than constantly weight up whether I should eat well.

That’s in hindsight.

At the time in my mind I was really convinced that that one biscuit might make the difference.

The type of calorie matters.

For example, the carbohydrates in fiber are not digestable, so those calories have effectively no impact on weight. Starches take longer to digest than simple sugars, so they result in less of an insulin response than the same quantity of simple sugars (meaning, if eating in excess, less starch is converted to fat).

And even when just looking at simple sugars, fructose and glucose are processed by completely different metabolic pathways. The 5% difference in fructose content in HFCS (along with the double-digit difference in the % of "free" fructose) results in a significantly higher insulin response than plain old sugar.

Indeed, if one eats a lot of sugar, as a result of insulin response, it is possible to get fatter even though one is eating at a net deficit and losing weight.

> the carbohydrates in fiber are not digestable, so those calories have effectively no impact on weight

Which is why fiber doesn't get counted towards calories on labels.

> Starches take longer to digest than simple sugars, so they result in less of an insulin response than the same quantity of simple sugars (meaning, if eating in excess, less starch is converted to fat).

That's not what it means. Insulin response cannot create fat out of nothing and doesn't result in more or less fat being stored.

If your glycogen stores are full and you consume more than you burn the excess calories are stored as fat regardless of the source or the pathway that stores it.

Calories in, calories out means you have to factor in how many calories from the food are available for your body to use. It doesn't necessarily mean the calories of the food you put in your mouth.

Yeah that’s just factually inaccurate. Sugar does specifically make you fat because of the way your body processes it. The fructose part (which is half of standard sugar) get stored as fat straight away and it also makes you less insulin sensitive. Over time that means you eat more and more sugar and your brain still doesn’t think you’re getting enough.

Or if you just want a simpler explanation - eating sugar makes you crave more sugar and so you’re a lot more likely to over eat.

the ingredients.

I may be off here, but I'm guessing based on the tea comment, that he may be British, which means a biscuit is actually a cookie in American terms.


What the hell is an American biscuit then?

> What the hell is an American biscuit then?

Basically, a chemically (as opposed to yeast) leavened bread roll.

Typically richer and flakier than a soda bread, though.

What's so wrong with never having children?

Nothing is wrong with not having children, if that is your choice.

If you want to start a family and are struggling to do so, that is very difficult to reconcile.

This is what I keep getting caught up on. I, for one, don't mind that my sperm count may be lower than my ancestors, or that my partners egg quality may be lower. I don't ever want to have children, so this honestly seems like a good thing to me. I know this isn't true for everyone (I'd say the majority of people _do_ want to reproduce), but for me personally, this kind of thing seems positive to indifferent at best.

this situation seems like an unhappy midpoint though. the chance of conception is still uncomfortably high for people who don't want children, while frustratingly low for those who do.

Hmm... I hadn't thought about it that way before. When you put it that way it makes more sense.

Well, they were actively deciding to and attempting to have children, for one.

Nothing, if you don’t want to have children.

But when you do, there’s a lot wrong with it.

Having children and passing on your genes is literally the entire reason you exist as a living breathing organism.

I wouldn't go so far as self-righteously telling someone what their purpose in life is. Besides that, if you want to go down that road, being in a support class and being a productive, supporting member of society in other ways is an evolutionarily valid position. Perhaps someone views their life's purpose to support close family, even if they can't have any kids, or their definition of family may be much more abstract and inclusive to a larger community. Perhaps they do what they do for humanity rather than for themselves alone.

Wouldn't raping and pillaging weaker communities be the most efficient way of succeeding at that?

As it had been for millennia before, I wager.

Won't bottled water be more likely to contain plastic traces?

There are reusable glass bottles, at least where I live.

There are here as well, but I can only think of one brand in an aisle of water that uses glass.

At least you know what's in bottled water, the water supply and its contents can vary wildly. In some places they still use lead pipes iirc.

In many American locales, especially in areas with access to large clean aquifers, tap water will be cleaner than bottled water. Don't go assuming bottled is better. If you can afford to put a filter on your tap (this is expensive), I would on tap water being much cleaner.

I'd generally recommend avoiding tap water altogether in the U.S. and making sure you're not drinking fluoridated water. It's been show to decrease a child's IQ by up to 4 points when used by pregnant moms[1].


If those things are bad for sperm count I'd expect them to be bad for the rest of the body as well. Sperm count is probably just a convenient metric which reveals the detrimental impact.

In my (layman’s) review of related literature, this seems to be the case. I’ve gone through phases of looking into for eg. what might optimise lean mass, testosterone, longevity, decrease cancer risk, sperm count etc. It’s all basically the same stuff. Unsurprising, really.

Can you share your study/findings? It'll help me and others who are searching for the same.

I’m afraid I don’t have comprehensive notes, but it’s not very complicated or new (perhaps disappointingly). Maintain a lowish bodyfat (10-15% for males, I think 20-30% for females), consume sufficient nutrients (including non-famous ones like k2) but lower-than-you’d-think calories, get enough but maybe not too much sleep, minimise stress, avoid endocrine disrupters (though if memory serves evidence here is thin), cold and hot treatments both have potential benefits (e.g suana), exercise is good (both aerobic and resistance). Fasting and/or low carb can improve the efficacy of radiotherapy in cancer treatment. Things like that.

You said "temporarily", so I want to remind you that all the same things are harmful to a child's development, especially when their systems are just coming online and establishing their baselines.

Yes absolutely! Still doing the dietary things for her. She gets to have hot baths though, and wear tight fitting underpants.

FYI anyone else reading, if you have a boy Teflon is really something you should avoid.

I'm duplicating this text higher up, lest it be buried deep in the argument below:

> At normal cooking temperatures, PTFE-coated cookware releases various gases and chemicals that present mild to severe toxicity.

> Only few studies describe the toxicity of PTFE but without solid conclusions.

> There are some reports where PFOA was detected in the gas phase released from the cooking utensils under normal cooking temperatures.

> Due to toxicity concerns, PFOA has been replaced with other chemicals such as GenX, but these new alternatives are also suspected to have similar toxicity.

> The toxicity and fate of ingested PTFE coatings are also not understood.


PTFE-coated non-stick cookware and toxicity concerns: a perspective

Muhammad Sajid 1, Muhammad Ilyas 2

PMID: 28913736

DOI: 10.1007/s11356-017-0095-y


Somewhat frivolous comment, but naming a material GenX hardly says to me "trusted and proven safe". It sounds like the backstory to a mutant movie.

I wonder if it's Teflon in general or damaged Teflon pans - many people do not used them correctly, overheat them and have damaged coatings that leak chemicals.

You can go check perfectly fine pans having 1-star Amazon reviews "Pan sticking after a month!".

Here's something interesting to think about.

Did you ever hear of a canary in a coal mine? The miners would take birds in with them to alert them to dangers gasses. If there were dangerous gasses he bird would typically die before the miners did. This is because the bird has very high performance lungs so that they can supply enough oxygen to beat their wings quickly.

You basically can't own a bird in an appartment and cook with teflon cookware or run the self clean setting on the oven (they are teflon coated inside) because the fumes will kill them.

That last paragraph does not seem to be true. Well only if you're an "an absent-minded person" according to:


Do you really think that people who own nonstick pans are only using them a low and medium settings as the article recommends? Or that most apartments have a vent hood for the stove? Something they don't mention is that the FDA also recommends throwing out nonstick pans made before 2013 (I think that was the year) because the older pans emit more fumes and at lower temperatures.

Sure, if you're extremely careful about using it, it's possible. That's why my previous comment wasn't absolute. But the majority of people I've known who use them seem to treat the pans poorly and cook with them at all temperatures. Many times they only own nonstick pans (who has space for multiple sets in an appartment?), and use them at all temperatures.

That's literally what my first comment was saying :) It's kind of crazy how widespread this issue is though.

I've read this all over the internet but my parents had a bird live very well past the expected bird lifespan and modified nothing about their normal habits (using teflon pans, cleaning the oven, etc) the entire time. The bird's cage was like 15 feet from the oven. Just a single anecdotal data point but I think the risk is extremely overblown.


I see the risk as being in the level where I choose not to use teflon pans, but not extreme enough to ban it or force others to follow my choices. I think the environmental impact from the manufacturers is a bigger concern that should be monitored more closely. I think they have a Netflix documentary about one place in WV. Of course the company switched to a new (largely untested) chemical for new coatings. Just a shell game to stay in compliance or public favor, like with BPA vs BPS.

I agree that for the average Joe, it is a waste of effort to try to get bans enacted. That time is much better spent doing research (or contracting a trusted qualified person to do so) and then enacting changes in the space they personally have agency over.

I'm just saying that I don't think it's right people to tell other what to do unless it has some direct and well demonstrated impact to the rights of another. As long as the manufacturers are correctly controlling the waste, then I don't see why banning it would make sense. Sort if like some people choose to smoke cigarettes- that's their choice.

In my experience, Teflon will always be scratched. Yes, in theory you could "use it correctly", but nobody ever does. So it's better to simply not have them.

Whats a good alternative? The ceramic ones?

It may be difficult to get to happen in your relationship, because at least for me, my partner is insistent on using non-stick pans. If you have to have non-stick, ceramic or hard anodized are much healthier than teflon, although they aren't as non-stick so require some adjustments to cooking style.

The best things to use are cast-iron and cladded stainless steel. With both, you heat the pan more slowly to reach your appropriate temperature (you're looking for leidenfrost) and then you add oil, and cook. If you use healthy oils and heat before adding the oil, cast-iron is effectively non-stick once a seasoning develops and cladded stainless steel won't stick except with specific foods (eggs). But this is definitely a different methodology for cooking than most people are familiar with.

The other benefit of using non-teflon pans is you can use all types of utensils.

Just want to share what I learned from personal experience:

Don't give up on winning over your partner's mind. It may take a little while, and you have to be patient, diplomatic, and gentle. People are resistant to change. But it is not hopeless, and it is worth it in the end, because their health is at stake.

Personally I just use cheap and simple solid stainless steel cookware, and scrub aggressively. Chainmail scrubbers work well for really baked on stuff: https://www.amazon.com/Knapp-Made-CM-Scrubber-Stainless/dp/B...

I used to have teflon cookware. It's great in theory. But in practice, I find indestructible stuff that you don't have to baby works much better for me. Of course, if you don't have much upper body strength, other approaches may work better.

Traditional cooking techniques [1] make use of the browned bits anyway, you don't get this as much with non stick cookware. I don't find stainless steel pans too hard to clean.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deglazing_(cooking)

I remember how the first time I tried to make beef stew it tasted terrible. Then I tried browning the meat first...

In my experience, anything plant-based comes off readily with just a good soak, unless it's been burned on to blackness.

I have used cast iron for decades. Never once had to scrub them.

Hot water in a hot/warm pan has always worked for me to keep them clean.

Stainless steel for most things (can't make eggs/pancakes though, they'll stick). Preheat the pan before using. After cooking, warm up some water in it and scrap away the stuck bits with a wooden spoon (or make a pan sauce).

Cast Iron or High-Carbon steel for steaks, eggs/pancakes, stir-fries (wok). You will have to maintain a non-stick seasoning and that has a learning curve, most people don't get it right at first. Make sure to always dry them as they can rust.

You can look at enamel or copper if you have the $$$.

Ceramic pans will always fail after a short bit of time. Cook's Illustrated has yet to find one that can pass their durability tests.

That said I wish they'd test the Granitestone Pro as other reviewers have said the Granitestone holds up better than other ceramic pans.

I use two ceramic pans which are still as good as when I got them 10-15 years ago from a brand called ecosafe. Not all from the set made it, one got ruined by overheating.

Stainless is durable, but I suspect there are issues with chemical reactions between the food and bare metal.

I think that enamel is the best, being inert and durable, and old technology, though you also don,t want to drop or overheat it.

Cast iron is also good, just unwieldy and difficult to clean if you,re cooking meat, eggs, cheese, basically animal proteins.

> one got ruined by overheating.

My primary use case is high heat wok cooking. A lot of ceramic woks exist, they just don't last long!

Ceramic are OK, but nowhere near the non-stickiness of teflon. Some pans are the first couple of times you use them but lose it real quick.

Carbon steal is my daily pan now (lighter than iron skillet - it's what chefs usually use). Once you get a good coating of fat built up it's pretty decent non-stickiness, but you have to take a lot more care of it.

I wish teflon was more healthy because it's damn good for cooking with, especially scrambled eggs.

Traditional skillet



Cast iron

Stainless steel

In that order, in my opinion.

You left out the two I’ve been considering, hard anodized and high carbon steel. Any reason why?

We've switched to carbon steel from cast iron; while it's easy to warp the carbon steel (and we have), it still works fairly well on our electric range. The seasoning is just as good as cast iron. A heavier high carbon steel pan might avoid the warping issue, but ours are all pretty thin.

I just wrote down what I could remember and have experience with.

I don't buy frying pans, so I take what I can get.

>Teflon will always be scratched

AFAIK this is a non-issue because teflon is inert in its finished form. It's only an health risk during manufacturing and when it's heated too high.

Sorry, but your knowledge is incorrect. Teflon breaks down and leeches into food at commonly encountered cooking temperatures.

claiming it "leeches into food" is a stretch. Wikipedia says even after reaching 500F it sublimates to fluorocarbon gases. I wouldn't want to be near it, but it's not exactly leeching into the food either. It's also unclear whether the fluorocarbon gases have the same effects on the human body as PFOA.

If you want to gamble with your health while the jury is still, technically, out, I can't stop you...

> At normal cooking temperatures, PTFE-coated cookware releases various gases and chemicals that present mild to severe toxicity.

> Only few studies describe the toxicity of PTFE but without solid conclusions.

> There are some reports where PFOA was detected in the gas phase released from the cooking utensils under normal cooking temperatures.

> Due to toxicity concerns, PFOA has been replaced with other chemicals such as GenX, but these new alternatives are also suspected to have similar toxicity.

> The toxicity and fate of ingested PTFE coatings are also not understood.


PTFE-coated non-stick cookware and toxicity concerns: a perspective

Muhammad Sajid 1, Muhammad Ilyas 2

PMID: 28913736

DOI: 10.1007/s11356-017-0095-y


> At normal cooking temperatures, PTFE-coated cookware releases various gases and chemicals that present mild to severe toxicity.

I don't think it means what you think it means. Reading further into the paper, it says

>At normal use conditions [< 230 °C], total emissions of PFCAs were 4.75 ng per hour

Which seems absolutely tiny. If spread out the emissions across the hour (because the 4.75 ng figure was cumulative emissions), the exposure to the cook would be in the parts per trillion range.

I guess it's all relative and a matter of opinion...

4.75 nanograms may not seem like a lot, but when you consider that, at 414.07g/mol it is 6,908,293,060,000 parts of the stuff, it seems like quite a bit to me. And that's in just one cooking session.

Please correct me if I'm wrong, it's been a while since my chemistry class.

The EPA drinking water standards, the ones watered down by industry influence, are measured in parts per trillion.

Here is a science question for you: If the EPA limit for PFOA in drinking water is 70 parts per trillion, what volume of water would need to be mixed with 4.75 nanograms of PFOA in order to bring that water to within the allowable limit for drinking water?

Now, here is a quote from the EPA:

> These studies indicate that exposure to PFOA and PFOS over certain levels may result in adverse health effects, including developmental effects to fetuses during pregnancy or to breastfed infants (e.g., low birth weight, accelerated puberty, skeletal variations), cancer (e.g., testicular, kidney), liver effects (e.g., tissue damage), immune effects (e.g., antibody production and immunity), thyroid effects and other effects (e.g., cholesterol changes). There is limited information identifying health effects from inhalation or dermal exposures to PFOA or PFOS in humans and animals.

Based on this question, do you think there are any "health effects" if exposed to PFOA and PFOS below these "certain levels".

>4.75 nanograms may not seem like a lot, but when you consider that, at 414.07g/mol it is 6,908,293,060,000 parts of the stuff, it seems like quite a bit to me.

This doesn't prove anything part from molecules being really small. What's more important at what doses do negative health effects materialize.

>And that's in just one cooking session.

I'm not sure about you but 1 hour is an usually long time to be using a frying pan. Unless you're cooking a huge slab of meat, letting anything sit in a 230C degree pan for an hour would result it being burnt/overcooked.

>The EPA drinking water standards, the ones watered down by industry influence, are measured in parts per trillion.

Looking through https://www.epa.gov/ground-water-and-drinking-water/national..., the only one that I can find that's near 1 part per trillion is dioxin, at 0.03 PPT. The rest are well above that. Furthermore, even 1 part per trillion is a high estimate for actual exposure. In addition to being spread out across an hour (3600 seconds), the emissions are also dispersed across the room and vented out. Finally, like I pointed out earlier, what maters more is the toxicity of the compound. Dioxins and PFCAs are both "bad", but it doesn't mean they're equally as toxic. The limit for mercury is orders of magnitude higher at 2 parts per billion.

Googling for "epa pfoa", I found this page, where the limit is listed as 70 parts per trillion:


Did you get a chance to take a crack at the chemistry math problem I posed?

Once you've solved that one, here is another one for you:

If 4.75 nanograms of the material is aerosoled out into the air, what amount is absorbed directly into the food which is cooking on the pan?

Based on random website I found googling, it starts to break down and release PFOA around 300F, which is easy to achieve if the pan is not filled with water.

Do you have your units mixed up? Wikipedia seems to have a different range:

>While PTFE is stable and nontoxic at lower temperatures, it begins to deteriorate after the temperature of cookware reaches about 260 °C (500 °F),


I used a different source than the one you link. 500F is not difficult for a frying pan to reach either.

The same Wikipedia page also reads:

>Pyrolysis of PTFE is detectable at 200 °C (392 °F), and it evolves several fluorocarbon gases and a sublimate.

My completely unscientific, unsubstantiated guess, based purely on obsessively researching food safety for years, is that it begins to leach at a much lower temperature.

> I used a different source than the one you link. 500F is not difficult for a frying pan to reach either.

Most vegetable oils smoke before 500F. If you're just frying up an egg or sauteing some vegetables you'll be fine.

>The same Wikipedia page also reads:

The sentence after it:

>An animal study conducted in 1955 concluded that it is unlikely that these products would be generated in amounts significant to health at temperatures below 250 °C (482 °F).[

Without reading that study, who it was funded by, how it was conducted, I choose to err on the side of caution. In other words, I don't believe that statement for a microsecond, especially coming from 1955.

>I don't believe that statement for a microsecond, especially coming from 1955.

but you're willing to believe unsourced statements based on your own intuition?

I provided a credible source in another reply to your comments:


But yes, I'll side with my intuition when it comes to my health and those dependent on me.

Just because someone says the gun is not loaded...

who the heck is getting their pans to 260C? ? ? Frying eggs... it only needs to get so hot?

A lot of people just don't treat their eggs well.

Huh, all my trousers were coated in teflon when I was growing up. It was a prominent selling feature.

So are pizza boxes and microwave popcorn bags

And the same stuff is in waterproof coatings and easy clean carpet coatings and other such things.

Good parenting is forcing your boy children to take cold baths because you need their sperm to carry on your legacy.


Cold baths is a bit far, but pouring a bucket of cold water over them has many health benefits, including immune function.

To clarify my comment, this is done with gentle reassurance and playfully, not as any sort of hazing or abuse, purely for health benefits.

It is common in many cultures in eastern europe and elsewhere and the health benefits are well known.

Cannabis was a big factor for me. My sperm morphology improved after I ceased using it. Anecdotal, but there are a few studies that support the idea (cannabis in general doesn't have a lot of studies because it is a Schedule 1).

If you're a heavy user, it can't hurt to stop while you're trying, and it may help. (I don't see it mentioned often in these discussions.)

1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31267718/

2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30916627/

Anecdote: I avoided all these things and more out of pure hypochondria for decades, and I impregnated my wife the two times we didn't use some form of birth control. I even have a sort of tic I integrated where I pull my testicles out from between my legs when they get constricted, and hadn't remembered why I started doing that until you reminded me that I read something about heat being bad for sperm in the 90s.

Good to have a counter point to the ‘I drink a pint of whisky at night and smoke crack every morning and I got my wife pregnant no problem’ argument!

It's not a counterpoint because no one says crack and whiskyt are required for pregnancy. It's a supporting point that sperm can develop without any particular specialized diet.

I was exaggerating for effect, but this is actually the kind of 'advice' you get from people when having trouble conceiving.

"We just got really drunk and stopped worrying an HEY, we made a baby! You Should try that!"


"My best mate smokes a spliff every morning and they had a baby no problem, you shouldn't bother giving up caffeine"

The 'advice' is almost as painful as the not conceiving.

Anecdote: same here, but did not avoid anything on that list.

You seem to be kind of shadowban (not sure what the proper term is), you might want to write an email to the hn moderation to clear that up

If you can reply to them they aren't shadowbanned.

Anecdote: when we did everything "right" and nothing. The moment we just relaxed and said "whathever", it happened. Two kids.

We had to use donor sperm, and even then we had 8 miscarriages and 8 rounds of ivf. Every time it was at 5 weeks and 5 days. Doctor finally figured out Wife had an autoimmune disorder (presumed) and 10 mg of prednisone during first trimester solved it, for the next 2 out of 3 ivf cycles to get our 2 little boys. She had cancer cells though so had to have a full hysterectomy so we're likely done unless we adopt now...

It was horrible and miserable but our boys are wonderful and amazing. So it was worth it. Honestly, I'd given up and really was just "okay" with things but it meant "more" to wife her being Mormon (me ex-mormon) there's some cultural stuff there. Now that I'm a dad though, wouldn't trade it for anything - love my boys and have grown a ton since having them, I can't even explain how life is different as a dad and before having kids.

TLDR: Sometimes simple things like 10mg of a steroid to stunt immune system can solve the issue, if you have a recurring miscarriages anyways.

I have nothing to add to this topic, but I just want to send you a virtual hug, we had one miscarriage and it was bad, I can't even imagine how you'd feel after 8.

Similar for us - trouble conceiving and a miscarriage. Months spent improving sperm. All conventional checks on mother came back as fine - "keep trying!" they kept telling us, while writing "unexplained infertility" on our medical records.

Still nothing happening. IVF was on the horizon, but a private consultant identified some trouble with "natural killer" cells in mother. No other issues with mother (no cancer like parent post)

Prednisolone (IIRC) and some lipid infusions and baby was conceived and delivered naturally. Drugs cost maybe £80 a month (although all the diagnostic checks and stuff was much more - start to finish (including like 12 ultrasound checks and multiple sessions with the consultants) we spent perhaps about £8-10K) - conceived on second month of trying, after years of nothing apart from a miscarriage and intense sadness.

Happy customer - no other relation: http://crpclinic.co.uk

My wife and I are in the unexplained fertility category and are currently doing IVF (so far, so good).

I knew immune issues were a thing but I didn’t know it was easily treated. We were told by multiple doctors we could do more tests to see what was wrong but it wouldn’t change our treatment plan.

Just wanted to air my annoyance. We’re both healthy and at least were relatively young when we started trying to conceive.

> radiation

I don't doubt much of what you're saying, but is there any evidence to support that modern life exposes you to any more harmful radiation than life in the past did?

Cigarettes for once, can expose you to way more rads than what is healthy [0].

[0] https://www.verywellmind.com/radioactive-chemicals-in-cigare...

Fair enough. I kinda forgot that smoking is still a thing. But it's been on a big decline for years, hasn't it? Surely this isn't some new and growing danger?

Probably has, even though there's still a lot of people who smoke. Think it will be a while before it really can be considered a more rare occurrence/habit.

Considering how many people still do it, it could be considered as part of our culture.

Otherwise i don't know any sources of radiation. Besides some places where the atmosphere is getting thin, and getting skin cancer is very normal, like Australia.

> Besides some places where the atmosphere is getting thin, and getting skin cancer is very normal, like Australia.

I thought the ozone situation had been getting a lot better since the 90s?

It is getting better, but it won't really recover until 2050 to 2060's AFAIK. That said, there are other gasses which might still be bad to let into the atmosphere, so we still don't understand it a 100% There's also the ozone hole, which partly affects Australia [0], but mostly Antarctica. I think it is really interesting, that about 2/3 of people in Australia will get skin cancer at some point, and I've wondered whether it's due to the increased exposure to, what is essentially radiation, or just the mass migration of people who were originally not native to the region. Thus they don't handle the sun as well, as say, Aboriginals.

[0] https://www.villageinframe.com/ozone-layer-hole-in-australia...

Yes, there have been numerous studies showing that the radio frequencies (radiation) used by cell phones and wifi are correlated (maybe causative, but not 100% sure) to reduced sperm count and quality. This is especially true when you have your phone in your pocket or your laptop on your lap.

Stuff like wifi and cellphones were not a thing in the past. There just weren't many consumer RF products a generation or two ago - phones had cords, there was no wifi or even internet, no bluetooth headphones or refrigerators, etc. Most of the RF radiation was produced by commerical or government sources (plus some ham radio), such as FM, AM, and military communications. This generally meant that you were far away from the source, which means they where mostly using different wavelengths and the power you recieved was lower (you quadruple power loss when doubling distance). Now days, you have multiple cell phones in your home, wifi at home and work (work can really blast you with all the access points they seem to over-install), bluetooth and a cell card in many new cars, and IoT devices seemingly everywhere.

Not to mention it seems we have more commercial exposure too. We have GPS, satellite TV, StarLink, cell towers, etc all vying for 100% coverage. However, I didn't look up the wavelengths, so these might not be an issue, or might cause some other kind of issue. I guess I'm just saying it should be no surprise that sperm count and quality is decreasing if we know that certain RF is linked to it and we are increasing that RF exposure.

> Yes, there have been numerous studies showing that the radio frequencies (radiation) used by cell phones and wifi are correlated (maybe causative, but not 100% sure) to reduced sperm count and quality.

Do you have some references?

> This is especially true when you have your phone in your pocket or your laptop on your lap.

Are you sure you're not mixing up heat and radiation here? OK, technically radiative heat is radiation, but surely that's not what you meant. Sitting outside on a warm day with a pillow on your crotch probably isn't good for your sperm either, but it doesn't seem honest to chalk that up to radiation (even though technically radiative may have warmed you in the first place).

> Not to mention it seems we have more commercial exposure too. We have GPS, satellite TV, StarLink, cell towers, etc all vying for 100% coverage. However, I didn't look up the wavelengths, so these might not be an issue, or might cause some other kind of issue.

I'm sorry, this is pure speculation unless you can back it up by something. "We didn't have all these things in the past" isn't an argument for anything. It's like claiming that the cumulative number of HN comments is rising while sperm quality is decreasing, hence HN is killing sperm.

> I guess I'm just saying it should be no surprise that sperm count and quality is decreasing if we know that certain RF is linked to it and we are increasing that RF exposure.

Do we know that those kinds of RF are linked to it? X-rays to your balls, sure! But GPS and cellphones? Evidence, please.

"Do you have some references?"

Here's one of many if you google. https://natural-fertility-info.com/study-wi-fi-laptop-comput...

"Are you sure you're not mixing up heat and radiation here?"

I'm not. If you look at my other statements in my comment, you will see that distance plays an important part in RF exposure. Energy dissipates rapidly and is generally minimal beyond 6' when we are talking about sub-watt consumer devices.

"Not to mention it seems we have more commercial exposure too. We have GPS, satellite TV, StarLink, cell towers, etc all vying for 100% coverage. However, I didn't look up the wavelengths, so these might not be an issue, or might cause some other kind of issue."

You quoted me in the above and complained about speculation. You can see in the italics that I acknowledge that I don't know if the distant transmitters cause problems or not.

"Do we know that those kinds of RF are linked to it? X-rays to your balls, sure! But GPS and cellphones? Evidence, please."

I've already linked one study. I'm not going to google everything for you. You can us PubMed too.

I'd also like to ask where your evidence is that it is harmless? Did you also miss the study that said specific brain cancer incidence is raised by holding a cell phone to your head? It seems your position that it's all harmless is just speculation.


> > "Do you have some references?" > > Here's one of many if you google. https://natural-fertility-info.com/study-wi-fi-laptop-comput...

A blog post by "Dalene Barton - Certified Herbalist, Birth Doula". Lol, you've got to be kidding me?!

> You quoted me in the above and complained about speculation. You can see in the italics that I acknowledge that I don't know if the distant transmitters cause problems or not.

So why bring them up? Moreover: You also don't know if the close ones do. I mean, your herbalist does, but that doesn't count ;-)

> I've already linked one study.

"Study". Something peer-reviewed, please. It can be done by a herbalist if you insist, but it needs to be peer-reviewed by actual experts.

> I'd also like to ask where your evidence is that it is harmless?

That no harm has been found. The same class of evidence you rely on when you eat a carrot and wonder whether it's poisonous or not.

> Did you also miss the study that said specific brain cancer incidence is raised by holding a cell phone to your head?

Glanced at it now. Please correct tme if I'm wrong, but is it really true that that they did a study with n=90 rats and used the occurrance of 2 cases of tumors in them, versus 0 in the control, as evidence???

"A blog post by "Dalene Barton - Certified Herbalist, Birth Doula". Lol, you've got to be kidding me?!"

I'm not citing the blog. The blog merely explains the results of the study. It is a peer reviewed study available through Elseiver.

"That no harm has been found. The same class of evidence you rely on when you eat a carrot and wonder whether it's poisonous or not."

Let's see your peer reviewed articles that prove it - that was the standard for evidence that you set in your comment.

"Glanced at it now. Please correct tme if I'm wrong, but is it really true that that they did a study with n=90 rats and used the occurrance of 2 cases of tumors in them, versus 0 in the control, as evidence???"

I gave you one example. Please do some research of your own instead of just trolling.


Here is another later study that shows no correlation: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5303122/

There is a lot of speculation and no confirmed mechanism for a milliwatt microwave transmitter to damage human sperm.

Would you be worried about a blinking led light near you? Thats the power levels we are dealing with and the visible light has much higher photon energy closer to ionizing being in the terahertz range.

Meanwhile go take a nice walk outside under the 1000 watt per square meter nuclear fusion radiator that includes many watts of actual cancer causing near ionizing radiation.

> Here's one of many if you google. https://natural-fertility-info.com/study-wi-fi-laptop-comput...

So, a quick rebuttal to this trash blog post recounting a trash publication. This is a cut-and-paste from a real rebuttal (Dore & Chignol, Fertility & Sterility, 2012), transcribed here for easy browsing. Link at the end:

"We think that the evidence presented in this article cannot support the claim that the observed effects are non-thermal and caused by exposure to a Wi-Fi radiofrequency electromagnetic field."

1. Keeping constant the temperature under the computer by an air conditioning system is not sufficient to ensure homo-geneity of the temperatures within the experimental area, be-cause the heat source from the laptop is not homogenous itself, and to exclude that there is no local variation in the samples temperatures. If the exposure design can be justified by the desire of being as close as possible to the actual conditions of use of a lap-top computer, the dosimetry used in these experiments is much too simplistic. There is no indication of the homogeneity of the field under the laptop, which may greatly depend upon the location of the Wi-Fi antenna within the computer.

2. The control samples,‘‘kept in another room away fromany computers or electronic devices,’’were not actually keptunder identical conditions. A more suitable experimental de-sign would have been a sham exposure design in which con-trol samples would have been exposed under the sameactively working computer, but with its Wi-Fi emission turned off.

3. Moreover, Avendano et al. state that‘‘[radiofrequency electromagnetic waves] from mobile phones may cause DNA damage’’and that‘‘research has shown negative consequences of electromagnetic fields on biological mechanisms,’’and they cite in support of their contention a highly controversial article(cite2). Genotoxicity of radiofrequencies is not a matter of opinion: radiofrequency energy absorption cannot break DNA molecules, and it should be kept in mind that there is no known biologically plausible mechanism by which non-ionizing radio waves of low energy can disrupt DNA(cite3). Recently, while classifying radiofrequency electromagneticfields (RF-EMF) as‘‘possibly carcinogenic to humans’’(group2B), the International Agency for Research on Cancer Working Group reached the overall conclusion that there is only weak mechanistic evidence relevant to RF-EMF–induced cancer in humans(cite4)

The conclusion of the rebuttal: "There is a serious message behind our rebuttal. Citing Avendano et al.(cite1) among the evidence of an association between Wi-Fi exposure and a genotoxic effect on humans perm would demonstrate how studies with an erroneous methodology can be used to support important public health claims and also the weakness of the evidence purporting to demonstrate a non thermal effect of Wi-Fi RF."

cite2: Diem et al. 2005 Non-thermal DNA break-age by mobile-phone radiation (1800 MHz) in human fibroblasts and in trans-formed GFSH-R17 rat granulosa cells in vitro.

cite3: Moulder at al. 2005, Mobile phones, mobil ephone base stations and cancer: a review.

cite4: Baan et al. 2011, Carcinogenicity of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields

Link: https://sci-hub.do/10.1016/j.fertnstert.2012.01.102

Plenty of info to choose from here instead of reading trash rebuttals that didn't attempt the replicate the study with the controls they are complaining about.


One of the first results claims that using the internet resulted in a larger decrease to sperm count than using a cell phone.

And all of the studies that claimed to show a link between cell phone use and decreased sperm were based on surveys of patients at fertility clinics, or were based on subjecting rat testicles to 1000x the amount of radiation that a human would encounter in the real world.

You may want to rethink your citations.

I'm not saying it's the only cause, just that it's one of them. They're not exactly going to blast human testicles with radiation. These sort of animal tests and surveys (couple with clinical evaluation) are standard practice for many medical research topics.

Where do you see the radiation level being 1000x? I see various studies using real cell phones on the market for between 2 and 6 hours per day.

Non ionizing radiation doesn't have an effect on our bodies unless it's very high energy e.g. you're right next to a high powered transmitter (radio tower).

That's not exactly true. VHF can cause ocular issues due to heat buildup under the right circumstances. You can have this issue with extended use at relatively low power (<100 watts) if the distance is close (think ham sitting next to their antenna).

This is thermal heating which is the very well known mechanism for non ionizing radiation to affect the body (microwave oven cooking).

Cell phones put out about 1000 times less power than your 100w ham radio. Which in itself is not enough to cause ocular heating damage unless perhaps it was within inches of your eye, I have never seen a case of it caused at that power level please point me to citations.

Remember these are omni radiators only a small fraction of the 100w ham radio power would strike your eye even inches away and it would fall off with the inverse square law.

Putting a 100w lightbulb against your eye would also cause damage or a 1 watt laser both due to ocular heating. This is all about the amount of wattage absorbed by your body tissue which is why exposure levels are rated in watts per kilogram, the more tissue the more power it takes to raise that tissues temperature to damaging levels. This is a why a focus laser with little power can cause damage vs a omni directional light or radio source.

I understand all that (except you are confusing laser damage with heat damage). The prior comment was saying that non-ionizing radiation is harmless unless next to a radio tower, which isn't true.

Lasers damage biological tissue in 2 ways, thermal (heat damage) and photochemical which is similar to sunburn caused by guess what high frequency light. There is also acoustical damage which is essentially thermal causing shockwaves from tissue vaporization [1]. Remember higher frequencies have more photon energy leading into ionizing radiation at UV and above? Below a certain frequency all damage is THERMAL.

Radio waves are much lower frequency and therefore the ONLY KNOWN mechanisms for biological activity is thermal but you seem to dispute that.

And yes it is true you will not get significant ocular heating unless next to a high power radio tower. This will not occur a 100w ham radio levels as you said and certainly won't occur from cell phones 3 orders of magnitude lower than that.

1. https://ehs.princeton.edu/book/export/html/363

Having a warm/hot laptop on your lap is definitely not a good idea for fertility.

what’s the solution? cabin in the woods and commute to work, fewer IoT devices, keep phone out of pocket, and?

All I do is schedule wifi to turn off when I am typically sleeping, phone out of pocket when home, phone on speaker when using it, and I don't really have any IoT devices.

I'm not saying everyone should do this, but that's what I do.

The above ground nuclear testing in the Atomic Age certainly increased background radiation levels.

To the many people arguing about mobile phone radiation - just move your phone to your back pocket & move on with your life. Your body will act as a shield. Will it matter? Maybe. Maybe not. Now go think about something else.

If you need something else to think about: non-antibacterial soap is better anyway, and a RO filter is less than $200.

Ok, NOW go do something else.

Good luck doing that anywhere outside the 1st world and still having a phone after the first hour.

Tim Ferris wrote about radiation from mobile phones reducing sperm count in rats, and tested it on himself (as he usually does). Banned the mobile from his pants and got one of those attach it to your arm thingies. Spermcount went up.

Tim Ferris is half conartist half motivation speaker.

I don't really love his shtick generally (a bit too try hard and salesman for my liking) but I think he's honest and not trying to con anyone. For example I tried the slow carb diet he proposes and I lost tonnes of weight.

I can't comment on Ferriss specifically, but almost any marketable diet can work in the short term since it makes you pay attention to what you eat. That fact alone is enough for results.

He is probably coning on a subtile not relevant level.

I googled his SCD and yes its the same schema f with his book and everything else he does.

It is not new at all.

His website uses the same technics to promote 'his' revolutionary things while never ever having done anthing new anything relevant at all.

And i read his 4-hour workweek. I payed for that book. His charisma triggerd me to get it.

This still doesn't mean he ever achieved anything you haven't read in any other blog or whatever.

He is selling himself very well. I personally would not be proud of myself though if i had his 'career'.

>I personally would not be proud of myself though if i had his 'career'.

It's interesting how we are primed to assume a psychological burden for anyone who is financially successful. Perhaps to help ourselves cope? I'm not singling your comment out specifically, as I often have the same reaction.

For all we know, Ferriss is probably highly satisfied, completely at ease with himself, and enjoying a great and varied existence.

Don't get me wrong, its not about the money itself necessarily but how you earn it.

He sells himself and in my opinion he does use marketing tools and mechanisms i don't like.

Nonetheless, the only reason why i care about him as he gets mentioned on HN every year or so. I care enough to write a comment but not to do anything else.

How he does it and what he does feels for me like mental esotherism.

4x is a large jump, is that referring to sperm count? It might be anecdata but given that you were seeing a fertility specialist it could be more valuable to hear your lifestyle changes rather than much of the noise that is out there.

It’s certainly anecdata since it’s just me but it was multiple tests over that period and showed a steady increase from not going to work for IVF to the level where it would.

They test a number of things from total count, count per ml, motility, correctness of shape. Everything went up. The shape was my main issue and that was the thing that increased 4X

I should say I also took some supplements too.

The problem with all this is isolating your variables - since you’re on a very limited clock and sperm tests cost £200 you don’t have time or money to figure out which things made the most difference. You just try everything and hope you got some of the right things.

All the things I listed above have some evidence for them affecting sperm so I just cut them all out.

For what’s it’s worth my tests were all over the place (as low as 12mil total and as high as 80) with no large lifestyle changes. My doctor at Mayo said that’s normal and they look at the average over a year or so.

Also, in case it comes up in the future, doing you own sperm counts on a microscope isn’t that hard. I didn’t bother with morphology and the like as that was typically fine, but total counts are easy.

How did you cut out tap water, heat, microplastics, teflon, and the western diet?

Not completely obviously!

Micro plastics was hard since you kinda have to choose between bottled water or tap water! We got a water filter for this one.

Heat meant loose underpants and no warm baths ever.

Teflon- easy. Replace with a carbon steel pan. Improve your chef skills AND sperm!

Western diet is basically high sugar and refined carbs. Just didn’t eat anything with refined sugar on the label in any amount whatsoever (I lost weight fast)

also switched to organic meat and dairy to minimise antibiotics. Can’t say if that made any difference but at least I was being nicer to animals

> We got a water filter for this one.

Is that enough?

I keep reading about how microplastics can be too small for a carbon filter and that you would need a reverse osmosis device, to completely remove plastics.

I can't say am really sold on using a device with a plastic membrane to completely remove plastics.

All the online materials on the topic are for the majority just product placements, it feels very disorienting to be able to make a data driven decision. Do you have any insight.

> Is that enough?

It must have been enough since his sperm count increased 4x, no?

Either the filter worked or microplastics don't effect sperm count much.

I’ve got an anti-tiger rock to sell you…

“Something changed, therefore this must be the reason” is a fallacy if there isn’t additional supporting evidence.

We are talking about an anecdote here, not giving general advice based on scientific literature.

That said. If I lived in a village that was attacked by tigers regularly for 6 months, and I installed a tiger filter which stopped the attacks, I would gladly pay 30 bucks for that ($30 is what a faucet water filter costs).

Disclaimer: I don't own a water filter or a tiger filter.

To be fair, this is a personal story and not a scientific study.

> Micro plastics was hard since you kinda have to choose between bottled water or tap water!

Micro plastics have been found in the muscle tissue of ocean fish[1].

Micro plastics are everywhere, not just in water bottles.


Would love to hear more about the mind of brands/foods you ate with no sugar. I’ve attempted this before and it’s extremely hard to find products with 0 sugar! Guessing you avoided the local Tesco?

Not OP but I do this by avoiding processed foods, making everything "from scratch".


- Pizza sauce from crushed tomatoes, tomato puré and spices.

- Marinade for marinating meat from spices and olive oil and either balsamic vinegar or lime.

- Pick my own blueberries that I freeze and put in plain yoghurt.

Word of caution: most food cans are lined with BPA. Try to avoid canned food products and make the puree yourself if possible.

Most food either comes canned or in plastic containers. Even the "fresh" foods will likely have pesticide residue so I guess grow our own garden? Of course that's probably out of the question in urban environments due to many toxic chemicals in the soil so ugh, we're truly excrementing where we sleep aren't we?

This is the kind of thing I was getting at about everything about modern life being bad. It's like someone declared war on sperm a few decades ago and is just slowly modifying everything they can think of to kill them all off.

Thanks for the advice! I buy the puré in glass jars.

Yeah it's crazy how so much stuff in a supermarket is then totally off limits to you.

I just ate a lot of vegetables and meat. Old school diet!

Plus like the comment below, just making things from scratch. Often they taste just as good - the sugar was just in there because they used cheap / unripe ingredients that don't taste of anything.

Rice, meat, potatoes, eggs.

And seeds. Lot's of seeds! Gotta eat those plant-sperm if you want to make good sperm yourself!

> I also took some supplements

Which ones? Our specialist recommended CoQ10

4x is totally believable, I did two 25 day rounds of clomid so I could cryobank and I saw over a 10x jump in less than a month.

The reason why is pretty obvious, I'm overweight so I'm aromatising more. Taking clomid blocks the estrogen negative feedback loop in the hypothalamus, so you make more GnRH, so therefore more LH/FSH.

The whole endocrine disruption thing seems pretty sketchy to me. If you're infertile and/or have low testosterone, chances are your diet and lifestyle are horrible.

You... avoided all that? How?

You didn't wear underpants or what?

One can wear underwear, just not tight-fitting. There is a reason balls are free-hanging. They should not get too warm.

I'm not the parent poster, but here's my take:

Heat - Live somewhere North. There's very little of it.

Radiation - No wi-fi at home, put phone in breast pocket.

Plastic, micro plastics - Never buy anything plastic, if possible. Buy food whole in paper bags from local market; prefer glass and carboard containers. Buy cotton/silk/etc clothing, never anything made of poly-anything.

Tap water - Live where it's clean.

Teflon - All my cookware and utensils are titanium, steel, or wood. No aluminium, no coatings.

Antibacterial soap - Buy the simplest, free-est of additives soap you can, intended for sensitive skin and allergics. Wash clothes with Sapindus saponaria fruit ("soap berries") and vinegar.

Underpants - Just don't wear them.

An interesting side-effect of such a clean lifestyle is that a fungus clogs my drain about twice a year, since my graywater has no chemicals in it. Had to learn to take it apart and clean it :)

> Radiation - No wi-fi at home, put phone in breast pocket.

This is pseudoscience. Unless you're storing wifi devices next to your testicles they won't do anything, and in that case it's due to heating.

I used to keep my phone in my pocket, really quite close to my little guys.

This was actually one of the most annoying things to change, but since radiation diminishes by inverse square, even a small distance change (if originally very close) could make a difference.

> No aluminium

I missed that one, what is wrong with Aluminium for cookware? Can you point to any source on that?

It's very mildly toxic. Acidic foods react with it and metal leaks into the food. It's why canned food says you should transfer it to another container after opening. I assume greater temperatures accelerate this process, as heat makes molecules move, though I'm no expert on crystalline structures in metals.

Searching for "aluminium toxicity" will bring up many results.

Titanium, on the other hand, is so safe to our bodies that it's used in surgical implants.

>Titanium, on the other hand, is so safe to our bodies that it's used in surgical implants.

So is Teflon used surgically and considered safe but only at biological temperatures and slightly above. Maybe titanium doesn't have such dark secrets as Teflon.

Why would you need underwear when you could just freeball every day?

Some fabrics aren't kind to sensitive bits. I prefer to have cotton boxers between my bits and whatever rugged exterior cloth is worn.

because denim

antibacterial soap, too? how do you keep yourself clean?

and underpants, how? because of how tight they are?

> antibacterial soap, too? how do you keep yourself clean?

Regular soap?

Exactly. Antibacterial soap is marketing BS. Soap already kills bacteria. As it has done since it was invented.

Proof point- look how hard antibacterial soap is being advertised during the pandemic, which is cause by a frikkin VIRUS

COVID-19 is surrounded by a lipid envelope; soaps break down lipids.

Yes, and you don't need an anitbacterial soap for that. A regular soap will be fine.

Yeah, but jon worded it like antibacterial soap would be ineffective (due to this being a virus), but it's not.

>and underpants, how? because of how tight they are?

Temperature control is the reason the testicles are in a vulnerable unprotected spot outside of the body. If they were inside the rib cage they would be better protected but warmer.

Underpants that keep them warm are working against this.

Nudism at home is weird but works. Works wonders on the testo level as well if the wife does it too. Avoid hot beverages.

i dont know. i did all of the bad stuff and surely wasnt a very health aware person (smoking, drinking, weed, late nights, slight overweight, city life) but got my wife pregnant within one period cycle and we did that two times (two kids).

its probably a factor.

but very nice to hear that it worked out for you. most have been a stressful period

Well, lucky you I guess. For some of us it’s a harder road and requires more work.

For me, cutting out those things did make a difference on multiple tests that trended up as I cut these things out. All of the above have varying degrees of evidence to support that they affect sperm.

The problem is that you’re on a tight deadline and have no time to isolate your variables. Your only option is to go 100% on everything.

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