In recent years there have been strong links between aluminium exposure and the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers have found that too much aluminium in the body can adversely affect memory and cognitive function. Now new research has found that over exposure to this element may have other harmful effects on the body. Scientists have found that aluminium negatively impacts male fertility.

Declining male fertility

Throughout the developed world there has been a substantial decline in male fertility over the recent decades. Male infertility cases are on the rise, with many men experiencing low sperm counts, abnormal sperm morphology, and limited motility. Researchers have found that certain environmental factors are negatively affecting sperm production and vitality.

The link between aluminium and male infertility

sperm cartoonThere have been many animal studies investigating the relationship between aluminium and fertility. Scientists have found that when mice are exposed to excess aluminium their fertility declines.

The epididymal and testicular weights are significantly reduced following high doses of aluminium1. This also coincided with lower sperm counts and poor reproductive success.

Now researchers have identified a clear link between high aluminium concentrations in human sperm and reduced fertility.

UK scientists from Keele University and French scientists from the universities of Lyon and Saint-Etienne teamed together to investigate male infertility2. They were particularly interested in the effects that aluminium concentrations have on male reproductive health. The team led by led by Professor Christopher Exley suspected that there may be a link between falling sperm counts and elevated aluminium.

High aluminium levels lower sperm count

Using aluminium-specific fluorescence microscopy, researchers were able to identify aluminium in semen and sperm. Sixty-two men participated in this research. Semen analysis investigated the concentration of aluminium, sperm count, sperm motility, and sperm morphology.

AluminiumNo statistically significant differences were identified within sperm motility or morphology across the study samples. However, the researchers found that men with oligozoospermia (low sperm count) had much higher levels of aluminium compared with other donor samples. All 62 donors recorded high levels of aluminium as 339 ppb. Several samples exceeded 500 ppb.

Exley and colleagues concluded that this research provides unequivocal evidence that high concentrations of aluminium can occur in human sperm, and that this may adversely affect fertility. Higher aluminium concentrations correlated with a lower sperm count across all donor samples.

This research confirms findings of other earlier studies that have looked at the effects of aluminium together with lead and cadmium on reproductive health3.

How does aluminium adversely affect sperm?

The exact mechanism by which aluminium interferes with reproductive health in men has not been clearly defined.  However, there is a general consensus that elevated concentrations of aluminium can disrupt endocrine function and induce free radical-mediated cytotoxicity4, 5. This can reduce the body’s ability to produce sperm and lead to oligozoospermia.

Can the toxic effects of aluminium be reversed?

If the concentrations of aluminium within the body can be lowered it is possible to improve fertility. Animal studies have found that increasing antioxidant activity can help to improve reproductive performance and protect against aluminium toxicity6, 7.

antioxidantsThere are plenty of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and trace elements that have important protective roles within the body. Increasing the availability of key male antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, selenium, and glutathione, can help to reduce oxidative stress.

However, humans are exposed to high levels of aluminium on a regular basis. This element is found in high concentrations in the environment, making it almost impossible to avoid.

For men that are suffering from oligozoospermia, it is highly recommended to select a fertility supplement enriched with antioxidants and other nutrients that can help to support healthy sperm development. Not only will this assist in improving reproductive health, it will also enhance overall wellbeing.

References

  1. “Llobet, L. et.al. (1995). Reproductive Toxicology of Aluminum in Male Mice. Toxicological Sciences. Volume 25, Issue 1, (pp. 45-51)”.
  2. “”Klein, et.al (2014). Aluminum content of human semen, Implications for semen quality. Reproductive Toxicology. Volume 50, (pp. 43-8).”
  3. “Dawson, E. et.al (1998).Comparison of sperm viability with seminal plasma metal levels. Biological Trace Element Research. Volume 64,  Issue 1-3, (pp.215–219).”
  4. Yousef, M. (2004). Aluminium-induced changes in hemato-biochemical parameters, lipid peroxidation and enzyme activities of male rabbits: protective role of ascorbic acid. Toxicology Volume 199 (pp. 47–57).”
  5. “Guo, C. et.al. (2005). Aluminum-induced suppression of testosterone through nitric oxide produc-tion in male mice. Environmental Toxicology and Pharmacology. Volume 19, Issue 1 (pp. 33–40).”
  6. “Yousef, M. and Salma, A. (2009).  Propolis protection from reproductive toxicity caused by aluminium chloride in male rats. Food and Chemical Toxicology. Volume 47, Issue 6, (pp. 1168-75).”
  7. Yousef, M., El-Morsey, A., and Hassan, M. (2005). Aluminium-induced deterioration in reproductive performance and seminal plasma biochemistry of male rabbits: Protective role of ascorbic acid. Toxicology. Volume 215, (pp. 97-107).”