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Eating For Two: How Is Diet Linked To Fertility?

✍️ Anju Dhiman | AI Intern, AccuScript Consultancy


What is Infertility?🤱

Infertility is the inability to get pregnant after a year of regular unprotected sexual intercourse and it is becoming a prevalent health concern.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that approximately 48 million couples around the world face infertility issues, accounting for 15% of couples trying to start a family.

The utilization of techniques like in vitro fertilization (IVF) and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) under assisted reproductive technology (ART) has grown, helping parents in 1 out of 20 births in high income countries. In developing countries with higher infertility challenges, ensuring equal access to ART is becoming a significant concern. Even with the broad adoption of ART , the success ratio is still limited even with modern progression of the procedure, with only one successful live birth out of every five attempts.

Hence, people are turning to natural ways to enhance their chances, and diet is right at the forefront.


What is the Role of Diet in Overall Health?🍱

Diet impacts our health, on the whole.

A properly balanced diet means:

  • Sufficient energy to sustain your daily activities,

  • Essential nutrients for body growth and restoration, keeping you in good health,

  • Reduced risk of dietary-related diseases, including certain types of cancer.

So, it's not a stretch to think that they might also influence our fertility.


Specific Dietary Patterns and Their Impact on Fertility🧆

There are lots of different types of diet, and research has shown they are associated to fertility in a variety ways.

1. Mediterranean Diet: Recent research suggests that following the Mediterranean diet can be good for your mind and body. This way of eating can also help with blood sugar control, metabolism, and weight issues, which are important for those trying to have a baby. One study also found that following the Mediterranean diet might help improve sperm motility.

The diet includes:

  • High consumption of vegetables (including pulses)

  • High intake of fruits

  • High use of olive oil

  • High consumption of unrefined carbohydrates

  • High intake of low-fat dairy and poultry

  • Regular consumption of oily fish

  • Drinking red wine

  • Low consumption of red meat

  • Low intake of simple sugars

2. Low-carb or Ketogenic Diet: Cutting down on carbs might have potential benefits, including for women with PCOS. One study found that certain diets can help improve chances of getting pregnant and help in making periods more regular in women with PCOS. These diets can also help balance hormones and reduce symptoms of PCOS like excessive hair growth. Specifically, diets with fewer carbs seemed to be the best for improving pregnancy chances, and eating fewer calories is key to managing hormone-related symptoms. Also, the longer women followed these diets, the better the results.

The diet includes:

  • Meats and Poultry (e.g., steaks, chicken thighs)

  • Fish and Seafood (e.g., salmon, shrimp)

  • Dairy and Dairy Alternatives (e.g., butter, cheddar cheese)

  • Eggs

  • Healthy Fats (e.g., avocado, olive oil)

  • Low-Carb Vegetables (e.g., spinach, broccoli)

  • Berries (in moderation; e.g., blueberries, raspberries)

  • Beverages (e.g., water, black coffee)

  • Condiments (e.g., mayonnaise, mustard)

  • Alternative Sweeteners (e.g., stevia, erythritol)

3. Plant-based or Vegan Diet: Plant-based eating can lead to reduced estrogen levels, impacting fertility in contradictory ways. While a vegan diet might help some women with hormone-linked fertility problems, it could pose difficulties for others. Research shows that about one-third of vegan men have low iron levels, which can affect sperm production. This can lead to producing fewer and lower-quality sperm.

The diet includes:

  • Vegetables (e.g., broccoli, spinach)

  • Fruits (e.g., apples, bananas)

  • Legumes (e.g., lentils, chickpeas)

  • Grains (e.g., quinoa, rice)

  • Nuts and Seeds (e.g., almonds, chia seeds)

  • Plant-based Proteins (e.g., tofu, tempeh)

  • Plant-based Milks (e.g., almond milk, soy milk)

  • Healthy Fats (e.g., avocado, olive oil)

  • Herbs and Spices (e.g., basil, turmeric)

  • Sweeteners (e.g., maple syrup, agave nectar)

  • Beverages (e.g., water, herbal teas)

  • Processed Vegan Foods (e.g., vegan cheeses, Beyond Meat)

4. High-protein, Low-fat Diet: A research study showed that women who consumed the most protein faced a 41% higher chance of having ovulation-related fertility issues compared to those who consumed the least protein. Roughly 20% of women looking for assistance in getting pregnant have fertility problems linked to ovulation.

The diet includes:

  • Lean Meats and Poultry (e.g., chicken breasts, turkey)

  • Fish (e.g., cod, tilapia)

  • Eggs (especially egg whites)

  • Dairy (e.g., skim milk, low-fat yogurt)

  • Legumes (e.g., lentils, chickpeas)

  • Whole Grains (e.g., quinoa, brown rice)

  • Vegetables (e.g., broccoli, spinach)

  • Tofu and Tempeh (soy-based products)

  • Protein Powders and Supplements (for smoothies or recipes)

  • Nuts and Seeds (in moderation; e.g., almonds, chia seeds)

  • Beverages (e.g., water, black coffee, tea)

So, can your diet really influence your fertility? It seems so! But remember, it's just one piece of the puzzle. Stay informed, eat balanced, and always seek expert advice.

Content Editor 'Olivia' with a lilac background

Edited by: Olivia Laughton | Content Editor | BSc Microbiology at University of Leeds


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