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Huberman Labs on ‘How to Optimize Fertility in Males and Females’
Dr. Andrew Huberman, a neuroscientist and tenured professor at Stanford School of Medicine, or as you might know him, host of the popular podcast Huberman Lab, recently spoke on the effects of using your phone on sperm quality, as part of his latest episode diving into how to optimize fertility in males & females. As we’ve previously explored, there is an established relationship between the EMF radiation and both the heat and non-health related effects of electronic devices such as mobile phones. Huberman acknowledged this fact, despite its tendency to be seen as a myth. “There is no paper that demonstrates a positive link between the two variables,” meaning there is negative relationship between cell phone use and the sperm count and quality in a man. The actual question is how intense are the waves and how detrimental are they to the biological tissues – in other words, it was a matter of degree. In particular, he shed light on how just having a phone can have an immediate effect on fertility in men. Using the results of a meta-analysis that investigated 18 studies with 4280 samples, he highlighted the fact that exposure to mobile phones is linked to lowered sperm mobility, viability, and count. Does keeping your phone in your pocket reduce testosterone levels and sperm count? Huberman affirmed this with the paper’s results which were consistent across experimental in vitro and observational in vivo studies.
What Does Huberman Recommend?
Although there’s no expectation to stop using your phone overall, to stay on the safer side, Huberman recommended not keeping the phone in your front pocket. “What if I turn off the wifi or the cellular access? Is it still a problem then?”. Yes, again, due to the heat and non-heat related effects of your phone – even if you can’t visibly feel them. Huberman spoke about how the temperature effects of the phone alone are enough (even if not reported to be uncomfortably warm) to change the temperature of the testicle to affect sperm quality. Even though there’s no clear link on how it relates to pregnancy and fertility, if your goal is to healthily conceive, Huberman emphasized the importance of avoiding being too close to the phone to maximize your sperm quality and chances of fertilization. It’s a reality that people will carry phones – 90% of the adult human population has a smartphone, the study confirmed. And the podcaster highlighted a key finding – the data demonstrated that sperm quality declined just from when individuals began to use mobile phones regardless of the usage time. It has been a popular belief that there is a strong negative link between usage time and sperm count – which is now proven to be false. “No matter what you do, if you use a phone you’re diminishing sperm quality – but you have the chance to mitigate this”, Huberman summarized. Ensure you keep your phone as far away from your groin area if you’re a male trying to conceive or trying to maximize your testosterone levels. He recognized that RF waves and the heat-related effects of the phone independently and together have the ability to disturb the Leydig cells of the testes and the production of testosterone and while the exact biological variables are not entirely clear, it’s best not to carry your phone in your front pocket.
If you’re interested in this topic and would like to learn more, check out our blogs that dig deeper into the negative effects of EMFs in relation to fertility in men & women, oxidative stress, our biological systems, and more.
Headphones and EMF and Your Brain
In the US alone, there were 400 million shipments of wireless headphone units in 2019, while 87% of respondents indicated that they use wireless earphones/buds to listen to music. How harmful are these for our health today and what could be the long-term impacts if known? In a Q+A prior to the episode discussed above, Huberman touched upon the fascinating literature he came across that demonstrated the potential health hazards of these devices. “There’s no question that EMFs when applied to biological tissues can be detrimental – the issue is how much exposure leads to how much deficit in some sort of human biological program”, he identified.
Although the data is mixed depending on the lab and the industry affiliation, there isn’t much research regarding specific devices since most of these are being released and replaced so quickly, which makes it hard for researchers to conduct longitudinal studies on particular devices. But on a spectrum, there are 2 extremes: on one end, EMFs are declared not bad for you at all, while on the other end, there’s the extreme that EMFs cause cancers of all sorts and are responsible for the systematic decline in male sperm counts globally. The reality is that the effects of EMFs are somewhere between – there just isn’t enough data. In lieu, Huberman relied on meta-analyses that studied the effects of EMFs and heat-related effects that can impede things like cellular turnover. In particular, he touched upon the fact that cancer becomes more likely in tissues where cell turnover is much higher, such as breast tissues, testicular tissues, prostate, and more. For example, in testicular cells, there’s extremely high turnover, with cells being replaced every 60 days. With cell phones being used more frequently, and at a higher proximity, this can really impede our biological function (although there are still mixed studies on whether this can cause/increase the risk of cancer), the podcaster emphasized. He focused on the findings of a meta-analysis that identified that it wasn’t the usage/how long we used our devices, but the very fact that we had them, and we had them very close to our bodies was contributing to potentially long-lasting and damaging effects. Huberman emphasized the importance of keeping your phones away from your groin or breast areas, given the high cell turnover and increased risk of exacerbating the likelihood of developing cancer. He recommended keeping cell phones out of your front pocket, the back pocket being second best but away from sensitive areas being the best option.
Huberman himself admitted that he doesn’t use Bluetooth earphones, but corded ones. Why? As a busy person, he tended to lose them very frequently, but on a more serious note, he wasn’t interested in being exposed to such a high level of EMFs so close to the brain. “The ears, eyes, and nose are direct portals to the central nervous system”, he identified. For example – there are olfactory neurons that connect to the brain, the eyes are directly linked to the brain and the inner ear contains the cochlea, which allows you to understand words since they are sound waves arriving at your ear. The literature is still ongoing but Huberman actually experienced somewhat sudden effects firsthand – he found pockets of fluids behind his ears that contained lymph, and although they were majorly benign, it was enough to act as an alarm system for him.
After the review, he identified a couple of precautionary steps he takes to prevent the negative EMFs and heat-related effects from the devices you use the most:
- Keeping your laptop off your lap
- Keeping your phone in good proximity to sensitive areas of the body
- Not using Bluetooth earphones
- Trying to take calls on the speaker instead of at your ear
“I’m not hypersensitive – I still drink tap water, and use my phone a lot.”, Huberman clarified. There’s just enough mixed data to demonstrate that there is a negative link between EMFs and your biological systems. And it’s about ensuring your proximity is maximized between the device and any tissue that has rapid turnover – and being wary of the effects of extensive exposure to them over time. What if your phone is in airplane mode? Although you eliminate the EMF effects, the heat effects are still present.
Huberman shared that he lost some his close ones to Glioma, a tumor that develops in the brain where the turnover of cells is insane and tends to proliferate. He acknowledged that mobile devices are not the only factor – but if we’re able to make small changes that reduce our risk even a little, why not? More than 90% of the American adult population owns a smartphone and more than half of kids above 14 have one too. The exposure today is giant and it’s only continuing to grow. It’s important to recognize this but also the fact that mobile phones are only 1 facet of a larger problem – emerging technology such as automobiles and television also play a role. It’s time to take a step back and observe how the data changes. Being aware is step 1!
Did you know the brain + sperm are more related than you know? Check out this TEDx to find out the fascination relationship.