More evidence of the media silly season in supposedly serious publications comes from the New Scientist headline: “heated seats may be frying your sperm”
The story is based on research that frankly, one can imagine in an undergraduate dissertation put together after a few too many beers. The theory goes that:
Optimal sperm production requires a temperature 1 to 2 °C below the core body temperature of 37 °C. This is one reason why the testicles hang outside the main part of the body. To test whether heated car seats might be raising scrotal temperatures above this threshold, Andreas Jung at the University of Giessen in Germany and his colleagues fitted temperature sensors to the scrotums of 30 healthy men, who then sat on a heated car seat for 90 minutes.
A “slight increase” is noted compared to a previous survey of men sitting on unheated car seats (Fertility and Sterility, vol 90, p 335), and it is claimed that “previous research suggests that couples take longer to conceive if the man drives for more than 3 hours a day”. However, “the team did not test the effect of the heated seat on sperm quality or quantity.”
The University of Giessen which undertook this study obviously has an expertise in sperm, as I found another paper on the effect of heat on sperm quality of llamas. Whilst the “fields of interest” of the paper’s author, Dr Andreas Jung, are listed as:
Clinical andrology, psychosomatic andrology, heat damage to spermatogenesis, nocturnal scrotal cooling, electromagnetic fields and spermatogenesis, psychosomatic dermatology, clinical dermatology.
Clearly there are actually some serious medical implications of understanding the effect of heat on male fertility, but when such research reaches the mainstream media – particularly in August’s silly season – it is bound to encourage some creativity in headlines.
The New Scientist PR team seems to be behind generating wider media coverage for the story – and the publication has a fondness for sperm-related stories (a search of its sight revealing 2,302 mentions against 648 for ovary, and just 227 for testicle – but 2,128 for breast).
Of course, the media have enjoyed creating headlines for this story such as: Hot seat is a gamble for the gonads, whilst Autoblog goes for heated seats boils your boys and Northwest cable wrote: heated car seat could be parboiling your privates.
Interestingly, a Google search for the story using heated +seat +sperm brings up paid for ads for heated seats – although you can’t imagine many people opting for a golden glow in their pants on the basis of the headlines.