Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive after a year of regular intercourse (at least twice a week). In the United States, 10.9% of women aged 15-44 have impaired fertility. There are many states that offer minimal or no insurance coverage for fertility treatments, this can be an expensive ordeal. Many turn to claims that supplements, complementary medicine and other measures to aid them. There have also been discussions on how diet and nutrition can aid fertility.
It was found that patients who are overweight (Body Mass Index (BMI) > 35kg/m2) or underweight (BMI<19kg/m2) took a longer time to conceive compared to women who are in the normal weight range (19-35kg/m2). It is then recommended that women who are overweight or obese to lose weight and women who are underweight to gain weight to reach the normal weight range so fertility can be improved. Women with higher BMI who undergo in vitro fertilization (IVF) also have less successful pregnancy rates when compared to those in the normal range. Although obesity does not affect men and the conception rates for their partners, it was found that the rates of having a live birth (a baby that is alive at delivery) is lower compared to couples with male partners of normal BMI.
The optimal diet for fertility is still mostly unknown but dietary modifications have been shown to improve infertility that is caused by ovulation problems. The consumption of chicken or turkey was associated with a higher rate of infertility due to ovulatory issues while the consumption of processed meats and fish was not associated with a greater rate of infertility. The intake of foods rich in vegetable protein showed a decreased risk of ovulatory disorder but it was not significant enough to be recommended to all patients.
Although there is limited evidence, current data showed that a high fertility diet consists of:
- Avoid trans-fat: this is a type of fat that clogs arteries and threatens fertility.
- Greater intake of monounsaturated fat: it helps improve the body’s sensitivity to insulin and reduce inflammation, both are good for fertility. Take more vegetable oil, nuts, seeds and cold water fish such as salmon and sardines.
- Turn to vegerable protein: replacing meat with plant based protein such as soybeans, tofu, beans, peas or nuts can help improve fertility.
- Increased consumption of high-fiber, low glycemic carbohydrates: choose slow digesting carbohydrates that are rich in fiber such as whole grains, and vegetables. This improves fertility by controlling blood sugar and insulin levels.
- Intake of high-fat dairy products: whole milk instead of skim milk was found to improve fertility. Choose a small dish of ice cream of full fat yoghurt every day.
- High non-heme iron intake which are mostly plant based: this can be obtained from whole-grain cereals, spinach, beans, pumpkin, tomatoes and beets.
- Taking extra folic acid: helps with nutrition for a healthy pregnancy.
- Hydration: water is the best for hydration. Coffee and tea can be consumed in moderation. Sugared sodas should be avoided.
- Chavarro JE, Willett WC, Skerrett PJ. Follow the fertility diet? Harvard Mental Health Letter. Harvard Health Publications. http://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/follow-fertility-diet. Accessed 2/1/2017.
- Collins GG, Rossi BV. The impact of lifestyle modifications, diet, and vitamin supplementation on natural fertility. Fertility Research and Practice. 2015;1:11.