Diet plays role in fertility

February 18, 2009 7:39:56 AM PST
One in six couples is affected by infertility, and ovulatory problems have been connected to between 18 percent and 30 percent of those cases, according to studies in the United States and Europe. Science has opened the door to numerous options for couples having trouble conceiving. Some of those options include artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization, surrogacy and adoption. However, many couples will try everything they can to conceive before resorting to alternatives. THE LIFESTYLE MATTERS: A recent Harvard study found women who followed a regimen that affected five or more lifestyle factors had a more than 80-percent less relative risk of infertility due to ovulatory disorders compared to women who didn't follow the regimen. The research team used a scoring system that included dietary and lifestyle factors like protein consumption, carbohydrate consumption, the ratio of monounsaturated fats to trans fats consumed, body mass index (BMI) and physical activity. A higher score was associated with a reduced risk of infertility regardless of age and whether or not a participant had been pregnant before. They found the women with the highest fertility diet scores ate less trans fat and sugar from carbohydrates, more protein from vegetables than animals, more fiber and more iron. They also took more multivitamins, had lower BMIs, exercised for longer periods each day and ate more high-fat dairy products than low-fat ones. "This was a really interesting part of the study that one to two servings of whole dairy on a daily basis actually increases fertility," Koren Barrett, N.D., a naturopathic doctor in Irvine, Calif., told Ivanhoe. Dr. Barrett says the reason dairy fat may be beneficial for fertility is that it plays a key part in hormone production. In other words, including good fats -- not trans fats -- in our diet is essential for hormonal balance. Dr. Barrett says it's important to use organic dairy products to avoid extra hormones.

OTHER SUGGESTIONS: Women who exercise 30 minutes every day and have a BMI of 20 to 24 have the best chance of getting pregnant. A BMI of 20 to 24 is equal to a woman who weighs between 117 and 140 pounds and is 5 feet 4 inches tall. It's important not to forget the other half of the fertility equation: the men. Men who are overweight produce less testosterone, and therefore, have sperm of a lower quality. Some experts believe a man's diet, exercise and BMI may affect his partner's chances of conceiving.