INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — In the wake of New Year resolutions and American waistlines bulging ever outward, Indiana fertility experts are targeting lifestyles and diets as worsening culprits in preventing couples from conceiving.
Reproductive specialists say that January is traditionally a milestone month for infertile couples, in terms of making resolutions both to trim off holiday-related weight gains and to conceive some time in the New Year. In addition to requiring a perfect balance of reproductive hormones, healthy eggs and sperm, the fertility equation demands more attention than ever on maintaining healthy nutrition. The best chances of pregnancy, they say, includes a diet of the good fats found in whole dairy products plus regular exercise, as well as eliminating the obvious evils of nicotine, alcohol, and drugs.
“More and more research is supporting the idea that lifestyle and diet are a probable hindrance to fertility, and this is the time of year to be particularly focused on diet,” said Laura Reuter, M.D., medical director at Midwest Fertility Specialists, the largest single group of reproductive endocrinologists in Indiana. “At the same time, it’s becoming more of a necessity for us to preach the gospel of a healthy diet and regular physical activity, which is not always easy in the midst of winter.”
“Recent research is unlocking more of the complex puzzles of diet and activity often surprising patients as to just how delicate the proper balance can be,” said Laura Tritt, registered dietitian for Organic Health Services, a reproductive wellness center that works closely with patients of Midwest Fertility Specialists. “For example, low iron, too much or too little body fat, or even too much exercise can impair fertility,” said Tritt.
The latest research includes:
- A recent Harvard Medical School study suggests food and exercise choices may lower risk by almost 80 percent for those with ovulatory disorders.
- In February 2007, Human Reproduction reported that women who consumed one or more servings of whole-milk products a day were 27 percent less likely to experience infertility caused by a failure to ovulate than those who ate less than one serving a week. Additionally, those who ate two or more servings a day of low-fat dairy food were almost twice as likely to fail to ovulate as women who ate less than one serving a week. An extra eight-ounce serving of whole milk daily cut the risk of anovulation by more than 50 percent.
- A recent Harvard Nurses Health Study concluded that 4.5 grams of transfat per day — the amount in one glazed donut — could disrupt ovulation because transfats could indirectly lead to a rise in testosterone, which suppresses the function of the ovaries.
The analysis of 17,544 married women participating in the ongoing Nurses’ Health Study II found those with the highest fertility scores: ate less trans fat and sugar from carbohydrates; consumed more protein from vegetables than from animals; ate more fiber and iron; took more multivitamins; had a lower body mass index (BMI); exercised for longer periods of time each day; and consumed more high-fat diary products and less low-fat diary products.
The “fertility diet” is characterized by higher consumption of monounsaturated fat rather than trans fats, which is found in natural foods like nuts and avocados, and olive oil.
Women should also opt for vegetable protein rather than animal protein, low-glycemic carbohydrates like whole grains, moderate consumption of high-fat dairy, multivitamins, and iron from plants and supplements, Chavarro and Willett’s team reports.