Sperm: 10 Interesting Facts Everyone Should Know

Sperm: 10 Interesting Facts Everyone Should Know

We all know that sperm are necessary for creating another human being, but sometimes they don’t get enough credit for their role. Maybe it is because the woman is the one who is responsible for carrying a new child within her body for the first months of its life. The reality is though, half of the genetic code of a child is carried within a man’s sperm. There are many interesting facts about sperm that can help a person recognize how important they are to creating a healthy child. Take some time to appreciate the role they play in creating life.

1. Sperm Responds to the Food a Man Eats

Food Choices Impact Sperm HealthSeveral studies reveal that a man’s sperm responds and is impacted by what he eats. What a man eats daily plays a very important role in the health of their sperm.

DHA found in Omega-3 essential fatty acid, found in foods like Alaskan wild salmon and cod liver oil, has been shown to play a critical role in proper formation of sperm. A study published in The Journal of Biology and Reproduction, 2011, found that DHA can improve sperm morphology. A round-headed sperm can become a healthy, cone shaped head, full of important egg-opening enzymes once again, when DHA levels are increased. DHA also plays a role in sperm motility. An increase in DHA levels was shown to play a role in the fluidity for sperm tail bending and flexing required for forward movement of sperm.

Another study showed that men who consumed 3 or more cups of coffee per day had reduced sperm concentration and total sperm count, as well as lower sperm quality.

Vitamin C has been shown to improve sperm quality and protect sperm from DNA damage; helping to reduce the chance of miscarriage and chromosomal problems. Vitamin C also appears to keep sperm from clumping together, making them more motile.

Another study, published by Fertility and Sterility, 11/10/2011, showed that men who ate more whole grain cereals (wheat, barley, oats) had high sperm concentration and motility. The same study showed that consumption of fresh fruit gave sperm a boost in speed and agility.

2. Men Need to Regularly Climax for Healthy Sperm

Infrequent ejaculation or sexual abstinence can lead to oxidative stress due to reduction in semen turn-over. This means that the sperm stay in the gonads longer and therefore are exposed to reactive oxygen species, leukocytes or other toxic substances which can damage them. One study showed that men who ejaculated 4 or more times per month, had better sperm morphology.

3. Sperm are Susceptible to Damage from Wireless Technology

In 2012, Fertility and Sterility published findings of a study on the impact of wireless devices such as laptop computers and mobile phones. Researchers wanted to find out if laptop computers Wi-Fi connection played a role in decreasing sperm health alone. In the past it was believed that the heat alone from a laptop computer may cause adverse effects to sperm health, but this new study shows that laptop computers connected to the internet through Wi-Fi damaged sperm through a non-thermal effect.

Scientists have suggested this may be due to radiofrequency electromagnetic waves (RF-EMW) as free-radicals. Free-radicals cause oxidative damage to our cells, including sperm and female eggs. Free-radical damage may cause sperm immotility, cell death and lower the integrity of the DNA. It appears men should avoid holding laptops directly on their laps, and keep cell phones away from pant pockets.

4. Progesterone Gives Sperm Extra Energy to Penetrate the Egg

Sperm-eggConsidering the size of sperm, they have a great journey to meet up with the female egg in the fallopian tube. One can imagine the incredible energy that must be used for this journey. That is only half the battle for a sperm to create life though. Once to the egg, also known as the ova, they work to penetrate it. Whipping their tails frantically seems like it would be very tiring, but that is where progesterone comes in. Sperm gets a boost of energy from a burst of female progesterone, which encourages sperm to whip their tails more passionately. This helps a sperm to penetrate the egg.

Why does the sperm respond to the burst of progesterone though? Well in 2011 researchers discovered that a protein called catsper within sperm cells receives the signal from the release of progesterone. A perfect example of “working together.”

5. Sperm Have a Superhero-Like Power

Sperm can melt the surface of the female egg. They do this by releasing enzymes from a portion of the head known as the acrosome, to dissolve the outer membrane of the egg. This helps the sperm to burrow through the egg wall. The sperm plasma then fuses with the plasma membrane of the egg. At this time the sperm head disconnects from the tail and conception of a new life occurs.

6. Sperm Have “Body Guards”

Sperm look very different than any other cell in a man’s body. It is true they are shaped that way to help them get where they need to go, but they are also shaped that way because they only carry half as much DNA as other cells in the male body. Because of this the immune system sees them as a foreign invader. Specialized cells in the testicles protect sperm cells, creating a barrier from immune system cells which would otherwise attack and harm them. It is common for this barrier to be broken and sperm to be damaged in as many as 70% off all vasectomy patients.

7. Sperm Live for Days

According to a study published in Biology of Reproduction (1984), sperm can live for up to 5 days inside of a woman, under the right conditions. More commonly though, sperm live about 2 days, so be realistic in timing if you are trying to conceive!

8. Some Like it Hot, Sperm Like it Cold

The testicles are about 7 degrees fahrenheit cooler than the rest of the body. Healthier sperm need to stay cooler than the rest of the body. The testicles work much like a refrigerator, creating a heat exchange from incoming and outgoing blood vessels.

There are some men in the world who heat their testicles above 108 degrees Fahrenheit in order to make themselves sterile. Yes, this is actually a male contraception method, though it sounds awful.

9. Poor Lifestyle Choices Negatively Impact Sperm Health

Bad Habits Lower Male FertilitySeveral studies have shown that men who smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, consume caffeine and/or are obese have lowered fertility due to a negative impact on sperm health.

Men who used nicotine regularly were shown to have poor sperm morphology and motility. Studies found little difference in how much nicotine was used daily, just that any use at all had a higher incidence of negative impact.

Men who drink alcohol regularly also have lower sperm motility and concentration.

Men with a BMI of 25 or greater were shown to have significantly more immotile sperm that men with a BMI less than 25. Obese men also have slower sperm and lower concentration of sperm than non-obese men.

10. Relatively Quick Turnover: The Lifespan of Sperm

Studies show a range of 42 to 76 days from the time of sperm production, through maturation, to ejaculation. The good news about sperm is that they are constantly being produced, unlike female eggs. This renewal system allows men a great chance to improve sperm health and count over a few months time. While some sperm are ready-to-go, others are just in the beginning stages of formation. On top of that, this renewal system lasts for a lifetime in most men. As a man ages, their sperm health and count may decline, but it never stops. This is why men can father children at a much older age than a woman can.

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[-] 3 Comments
  1. good and helpful information to me, thnks

  2. Hi- Could you please share the science behind keeping sperm cool? Im specifically wondering about hot tub use while trying to conceive. Is it best for men to avoid the hot tub completely while trying to conceive? I’d love to actually see the science behind it. Thanks a ton.

    • Hi Deena,

      I don’t think taking an occasional dip in a hot tub, even 1 time a week is going to be detrimental to sperm production, unless the count was very low. In the case of very low sperm count, it would be best for the male partner to avoid hot tubs during a woman’s most fertile time (when you would be trying for baby).

      Learn more about the “science” behind it here: http://www.newmalecontraception.org/heat-methods/