Body-builders might not have lower sperm counts

Most people pussy-foot around when they talk about sex.  Scientists do.  Rock and rollers don’t.  The goal of this blog is to demonstrate the compatibility of rock and roll and science.  Let’s see what a little rock and roll clarity can do for a recent story that has been covered by the science press

The core of the story is that a study by Jorge E. Chavarro, et al. published in Human Reproduction shows a link between soy consumption and lowered sperm count in 99 men.  A study of 99 men, from a fertility clinic in Boston of all places, really isn’t enough to draw any conclusion other than that this might be worth looking into further.

Let’s think about this while we await further research.  I’d like you young dudes out there to try not to snicker.  This is a very serious issue to some of the older cats.  They already feel threatened enough by you guys so don’t make it worse.  One of them probably is your boss and he has already noticed that the receptionist laughs at all of your jokes. 

The rocker reaction might be, “You say that like its a bad thing.”  All of Rock Dad’s bands were awesome [B.S. (bad science) alert #1: unsubstantiated claim], but even my friends who were in lame bands found that the interesting girls/women paid more attention to guys in bands.  It still was necessary to follow up correctly.  Some of the guys who were better at following up may have found themselves at times wishing that they were a little less successful.  It’s possible to spend quite a lot of energy trying not to get people pregnant.  Accidents happen, KWIM?  A lower sperm count might make accidents a little less likely.

Soy protein powders, such as performance or body builder powders were among the soy foods studied.  If you are older than 30, you may remember when the jocks and the rockers were entirely separate crowds.  If not, you can check out this post for a history lesson on metal fans.  It’s really only been since Limp Bizkit hit in the mid-1990s that rock guys were supposed to look like professional wrestlers.  If you are old enough to remember when the football team warmed up to “The Heat Is On” and have kids, then you are allowed to snicker at those ex-body builders who made your life hell. 

What if you are a vegetarian and eat lots of soy?  Well, Rock Dad was a vegetarian for ten years before Mrs. Rock became pregnant.  No problem.  [B.S. (bad science) alert #2: anecdotal evidence.]  Vegetarians attract very interesting women, such as Mrs. Rock.

We all should check things out for ourselves when possible.  Scientists are really good at this, which is why the authors use the word “suggests” instead of “proves.”   Music fans are not always so credulous, which is why people think Colbie Caillat is an internet phenomenon who recorded her album “at home” even though her father is a totally-connected music exec.  (Rock Dad checks things out…)  While checking out the original article, I picked up on the following:

A Dr. Johnson found that Asian men have lighter testicles than American men.    They only studied 32 men so don’t get all AC/DC on us.

(I recently criticized AC/DC but they are so relevant here.)  It may seem strange that Chavarro would bring this up.  He wondered if all the soy they eat in Asia contributed to the difference. 

The jury is still out on soy and male fertility, so for now eating soy is like wearing a pink shirt.  Consider it a sign that someone is very confident of his masculinity. 

We give this story three Lemmys (out of five.)

Keep on truckin’,

Rock Dad.

Genetics of Viking Metal, Part 1

…or Mommy, where did Finntroll come from?

Everybody knows Vikings are cool—cooler than pirates, maybe—but I doubt that many people outside the underground metal scene know much about Viking metal. I’ll get into that soon, but first we need to talk about Vikings. We are going to use genetics to trace humankind’s prehistoric route from Africa to Scandinavia and beyond. Then we will see if we can do something similar with Viking metal. It won’t be scientific but it will be close enough for rock & roll.

Geneticists have recently started analyzing how differences between genes in different populations can show how people migrated across the planet. They have sorted hundreds of thousands of people into groups based on these differences. Then, knowing where those people live or where their recent ancestors lived, they can figure out how we have moved around.

Let’s go (back) to high school for a little while. We need to remember a few things before we can get into the cool stuff. I am going to skip the stuff we don’t need to know here. A good place to look for more info is in this Wikipedia article.

The smallest chunk of genetic material is a nucleotide. You can think of a nucleotide as a letter. The four nucleotides are abbreviated G, C, A, and T. See, even scientists think of them as letters. Nucleotides pair up. G pairs with C. A pairs with T. Nucleotides are also called bases so a pair of nucleotides is called a base pair.

String a number of base pairs together and you get a gene. A gene contains enough information to tell your body how to make a specific protein. Proteins do things for you. Each protein does a different thing.

String a bunch of genes together and you get a DNA molecule. The DNA molecule twists up into structure called a chromosome. Chromosomes also come in pairs. If you, the reader, are a human you have 46 chromosomes in 23 pair.

I would like to pretend you are female because it makes this illustration simpler. If you identify with that Who song “I’m a Boy,” you can go back to being male soon.

Each egg cell you produce will contain only 23 chromosomes—not 46. That’s exactly how you want it. If an egg cell “gets lucky” (hopefully with a sperm cell from another consenting adult), it will combine with the sperm’s 23 chromosomes to create an embryo with a total of 46 chromosomes.

So how does your body decide which 23 of your 46 chromosomes go into the egg? It wimps out and includes material from all 46. The chromosomes are in pairs, right? Each chromosome in your egg cell contains a mixture of segments of DNA from each chromosome in your corresponding pair. The mixture is different in different egg cells. If you were into hip hop a few years ago, you might call this mixing “chopped and screwed.”

Take any of your chromosome pairs as an example. One chromosome came from your mother and contains a mixture of DNA from her parents. The other chromosome came from your father and likewise, it contains a mixture of DNA from his parents. Your egg cells therefore will contain a mixture of DNA from all four of your grandparents. The same thing will be true of any sperm that happens to fertilize your egg.

The end result is that (most) DNA gets really mixed up after just a few generations. It’s too mixed up to be of use here. Luckily, there are two exceptions.

You can be male again now. Turn off your Ray Lamontagne CD and listen to some AC/DC if you need help with the transition.

When you create sperm only 22 of your 23 chromosome pairs are “chopped and screwed.” Only one of your last chromosome pair is passed on and it is passed on pretty much exactly as you got it from one of your parents. This final chromosome is the one that determines gender. Some of your sperm will have the chromosome you got from your father. Sometimes this is referred to as a Y chromosome because it looks like a Y. The rest will have the one you got from your mother. It looks like an X.

Males have one X and one Y chromosome and either one could end up in a sperm cell. Females have two X chromosomes so no matter what they will pass along an X chromosome. The DNA on the X chromosome in each egg is a mixture of the DNA from the mother’s two X chromosomes.

Since you are male, your daughters will receive an almost perfect copy of your X chromosome. Your X chromosome came from your mother. Remember that when she made her eggs, the X chromosome that would become your was a mixture of your mother’s two X chromosomes. It went through the same mixing process described above, so it’s not useful for our purpose here.

It is important to understand that your sons will inherit a Y chromosome that is almost exactly like your paternal grandfather’s Y chromosome. His Y chromosome was almost exactly like his father’s father’s father’s father’s Y chromosome. I say “almost exactly” because the DNA copying process isn’t perfect and errors are made. This is also very important and I will discuss it in more detail later.

So even though I have no idea when I last hugged my dad, we are connected by this DNA thread that leads through all our male ancestors back into prehistory. Women are better at bonding anyway, but is this one way they are ripped off? NO! They have a similar DNA link but it’s even cooler. I’ll get into that in a future post. I promise that when I explain it you will think I made it up.