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Editorial

There Has To Be Another Way | Raw Egg Nationalist

The pharmaceutical method of achieving happiness – or something close to it – comes with serious consequences

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Increased levels of a human growth factor called activin A during pregnancy can cause irreversible damage to male fetuses, according to a new study published in the journal Frontiers in Endocrinology. In the right quantity, activin A ensures the masculinisation process takes place fully and properly: the testes form, produce testosterone and are populated with germline cells, which will eventually become viable sperm at adulthood. Too much activin A, however, and these things don’t happen as they should do, with the potential for life-long negative effects.

So why does this matter?

Because activin A levels are increased by selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)—anti-depressants—and nearly 20% of all women in the US take them. Rates of use are similarly high or even higher in many other countries, including the UK. A significant proportion, perhaps a majority, of these millions of women will remain on this medication if they get pregnant. We don’t know exact numbers, but we do know women are told it’s safe for them to continue taking SSRIs while pregnant, and that attempting to reduce their dosage or come off the pills is likely to be bad for their health. Apart from SSRI use, infections within the womb and pre-eclampsia can also cause significant increases in activin A levels during pregnancy.

What this new study reveals, although the authors don’t acknowledge it, is that SSRI use may be a serious undiagnosed cause of the fertility apocalypse facing the world today. Within the space of a few decades, natural reproduction may cease to be possible if current trends in male fertility continue.

There’s already little evidence that SSRIs actually work. If we needed another reason to abandon our massive reliance on them and find other ways to deal with depression, this is it.

Prozac pills

Tom Varco / Wikimedia Commons

All of the research that took place for the new study took place on mice. Activin A and its role in the development of the fetal testes are identical in humans and mice. The researchers modified female mice to remove a natural activin A inhibitor called inhibin, in order to increase the growth factor beyond normal levels in the bodies of the female mice, and then examined the testes of their male offspring. They discovered that increased exposure to activin A during gestation seriously affected the growth of the Leydig cells, which produce testosterone, and the growth of the germline cells, which become sperm later in life.

That means male mice born to mothers with higher levels of activin A will have lower levels of testosterone throughout their lives and produce fewer sperm in their testes as adults. The results are likely to be the same in humans.

The researchers note that these results “mimic phthalate exposure.” Phthalates are a common class of endocrine-disrupting chemical found in plastics, personal-care products and other commercial items that we’re all exposed to regularly in our day-to-day lives. A great many of these chemicals interact with the body’s hormone receptors, which are found in virtually every cell in the body, in a manner that is closely similar to the natural hormone estrogen. In doing so, they upset the natural hormone balance—men have more testosterone and less estrogen, and vice versa for women—which is crucial to sexual differentiation and development, as well as health more generally.

Low testosterone, birth defects, reduced fertility and infertility, gender dysphoria, cancers, obesity and diabetes have all been linked to exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals at every stage of life, from gestation, through childhood and into the teenage years and adulthood. There’s no stage of life at which these chemicals can’t have a negative effect on our bodies, but exposure to them at particular moments, especially during early development, has effects that cannot be reversed.

Plastic bottles on a river bank

Ivan Radic / Flickr

You only get one chance to develop properly in the womb, to go through mini-puberty—a burst of hormones during infancy—or through big puberty in your teens. There are no second chances. No refunds.

Professor Shanna Swan, a world-leading expert in reproductive health, believes that widespread exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals is one of the principal causes of the current global decline in fertility, which is taking on an existential character for humans as a species. In particular, sperm counts have declined to such an extent that within just a few decades it may be impossible for humans to reproduce by natural means. Simply by extrapolating trends in sperm counts, Professor Swan predicts that by 2045, the median man will have a sperm count of zero. That means one half of all men will produce no sperm at all, and the other half will produce so few it doesn’t matter—they won’t get a woman pregnant in a lifetime of Sundays.

And this is before we even factor in the effects of these chemicals on women’s fertility, which are no less drastic than their effects on men’s. A recent study out of Singapore, for example, showed that exposure to a class of chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, which are used in everything from fire retardants and greaseproof paper to non-stick saucepan coatings, can reduce a woman’s chances of bringing a live baby to full term by as much as 40%. That’s insane—there’s no other word for it.

Of course, it’s not just exposure to toxic chemicals that’s causing these terrible declines in fertility for both sexes. Poor diets and sedentary lifestyles, which lead to obesity and metabolic diseases like diabetes, are also clearly to blame. Being overweight and unfit is a disaster for health across the board.

Economic and social factors are also making it harder for young people to get together and have sex in the first place, let alone make babies. For many, what was once just a normal, inevitable part of life—owning a home and starting a family—now seems an impossibility, as house prices and the general cost of living continue to increase out of all proportion to wages.

The unprecedented role of pharmaceuticals in managing our lives is clearly a part of the problem too. The totally medicated society, once a mainstay of “dystopian” science fiction like Huxley’s Brave New World, is our reality. Back in October of last year, a new study showed that Americans will now spend the majority of their lives on prescription pills. The study revealed a massive increase in the quantities of drugs people are taking, in novel combinations whose effects are anybody’s guess. Rates of polypharmacy, when an individual takes five or more drugs at once, have increased spectacularly. Back in the mid-90s, the majority of people on prescription medication took just a single drug, but now an individual on medication has a 50% chance of being a polypharmacy case.

Pills fallen out of a prescription bottle onto a table

USMC / Edited

The study also revealed a strong gender imbalance, with an American girl born in 2019 expecting to spend 60% of her life taking prescription drugs, as opposed to 48% for an American boy born in the same year. American girls will also tend to be prescribed drugs much earlier, by their mid teens—often as not the contraceptive pill—whereas most American boys won’t start until they reach the age of 40.

The sheer scale of anti-depressant use is worrying enough on its own, even before we consider the effects of these drugs on sexual behaviour and fertility. In Scotland, to take perhaps the most extreme example available today, 25% of all adults are prescribed antidepressants. That’s over a million people. An even greater number, a full third of the adult population, are also being prescribed drugs from various broad classes associated with mental-health issues: benzodiazepines, gabapetinoids, Z-drugs and opioid-based pain relievers. In the US, about 15% of the adult population is using anti-depressants.

Anti-depressants are well known to cause sexual problems, often severe sexual problems, including loss of libido, erectile dysfunction and lack of sensation in the genitals. The general feeling of so-called “emotional blunting” makes it hard for users to experience the highs and lows of emotion that are needed to make a relationship truly satisfying and meaningful. The sexual problems can persist after a user stops taking anti-depressants. The rate of prescription for erectile-dysfunction drugs among former users of anti-depressants is three times higher than among the general population.

And now this: anti-depressants may have powerful endocrine-disrupting effects during pregnancy.

And guess what? It’s probably all for nothing. Anti-depressants don’t even really work. 

A woman looks forlorn out a window while holding a mug

A huge meta-study, a study of studies, from 2022 in the British Medical Journal showed that only 15% of users can expect a greater improvement to their mood than if they’d been given a placebo. Fifteen percent. What’s more, sufferers of the worst forms of depression, including sufferers with comorbid anxiety and suicidal tendencies , may actually be the ones who benefit least from anti-depressants.

Those people are supposed to be the main targets for the drugs. Improving their lives is the justification for the licensing and marketing of the drugs in the first place. If the manufacturers instead tried to license these drugs on the basis of the marginal improvements they bring to the lives of people with less serious forms of depression, the drugs might not even be licensed at all.

Another meta-study, taking in over 1000 trials and nearly 130,000 participants, concludes that exercise is at least 1.5x more effective at relieving mild-to-moderate symptoms of depression, stress and anxiety than either medication or cognitive behavioural therapy. Imagine that.

But perhaps what best illustrates the failure of anti-depressants, and the absurdity of their use in such enormous quantities, is the fact that scientists still haven’t been able to prove the dominant chemical explanation for depression, which is serotonin deficiency. Decades have passed, but like Nero during the Great Fire of Rome, a proof still remains conspicuous by its absence. No matter. Doctors just continue to prescribe SSRIs on the basis that lack of serotonin is the underlying problem. So it goes.

What a dreadful mess. A mess that would be hard enough to disentangle ourselves from without billions of dollars in profit and the reputation of the entire medical discipline being at stake as well. But we’ve got to try. Not just our health and happiness, but the future of the species, may depend on it.

This op-ed features opinion and analysis from Raw Egg Nationalist, the popular health and fitness author recently profiled in the Tucker Carlson Originals documentary, “The End of Men“. His book, The Eggs Benedict Option, is available on his website and from popular book sellers, and his magazine, Man’s World, is available online.

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Raw Egg Nationalist
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Raw Egg Nationalist is the popular fitness and health author profiled in the Tucker Carlson Originals documentary The End of Men. His latest book, "The Eggs Benedict Option", is available now.

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