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Sperm Aren’t Better Because They’re Older, They’re Older Because They’re Better

Recently, a new study published in PNAS (that’s the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, despite the amazingly appropriate acronym) claimed that the older sperm from any particular batch of ejaculate produce offspring with better chances of survival as a child, and a healthier life as an adult.

The implications of this study seem like they could be vital for couples attempting to get pregnant through in vitro fertilization, for obvious reasons. But should everyone trying to conceive via, well, “peen-vagee,” be worried about these differences between young sperm and old sperm, and which ones we release when we climax?

In short, according to Muhammad Mirza, medical director of Allied Medical and Diagnostic and a specialist in male reproductive health: No.

“In my experience, whether sperm are young or old doesn’t matter — what does matter is whether sperm are functionally potent (meaning that they can initiate conception) or functionally non-potent,” Mirza explains. That’s why your overall sperm health is far more important than looking specifically at the age of individual sperms. (In terms of actual age, sperm can live in the testes for up to 74 days before being reabsorbed by the body.)

Essentially, while Mirza doesn’t believe the study is wrong — obviously, he says, allowing healthy sperm to mature in the right environment will be beneficial — he believes it might cause people to focus on the wrong aspects of sperm viability: its age, rather than its health. He argues that age, in essence, is really a side effect of a healthy sperm rather than a cause: The sperm lived that long because it was already in tip-top shape.

Mirza further emphasizes the importance of sperm health, pointing to the combined results of 185 studies conducted across the U.S., Europe, Australia and New Zealand that have found that sperm counts have almost halved in the last four decades. “We’re an inactive, obese society that consumes a high-sugar and high-fat diet,” Mirza explains. “As long as we remain that way, sperm quality is going to continue diminishing.”

That’s because an unhealthy lifestyle reduces testosterone levels, which discourages the entire sperm production process.

So rather than focusing on how to trick your oldest sperm into coming out first (sorry — that’s something that we have absolutely no control over), your best bet is to ensure you have healthy sperm, which you can best do by hitting the gym more often and eating a little less crap.

Oh, and for the love of God, switch from briefs to boxers or boxer briefs already.