Sunday, 11 March 2012

The Fertility Diet: An overview

This is a summary of the book "The Fertility Diet:  Groundbreaking research reveals natural ways to boost ovulation & improve your chances of getting pregnant" by Jorge E. Chavarro (M.D., Sc.D), Walter c. Willet (M.D., Dr. P.H.), and Patrick J Skerrett.  The book reflects the result and analysis made on the relationship between food and fertility  such that the food that we eat affects a women's fertility .  It also offers some suggestions on what food a woman should take to boost her fertility  and increase her chances of conception.  The research is based on the Nurses' Health Study that examined the effects of diet and other lifestyle changes on fertility among almost 20,000 female nurse respondents.

We hope that the information that we will be sharing below will be of great help and use to all women who is planning to get pregnant

 © Fresha-licious (11March2012)

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Background:  In 1989, a Nurses’ Health Study was conducted by Dr. Willet to explore reproductive and other health issues in females.  It involves 116,000 young nurses who complete detailed questionnaires every other year.  The book Fertility diet is based on the research conducted in a specifically selected group of women from the said Nurses studies, 18,555 participants who said that they were trying to get pregrant.  It focuses mainly on understanding how diet affects fertility.

The Authors:  Jorge E. Chavarro, M.D., Sc.D / Walter c. Willet, M.D., Dr. P.H. / Patrick J Skerrett
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1.      MALE FACTORS -  Low Sperm Count, Sperm Defects, Twisted Tubes, and Immune Attack

1.a. Ovulation Disorders – Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), Luteinizing hormone (LH), and estrogen are needed for the maturation and release of an egg from the ovary (ovulation).  Poorly timed release of these hormones, or inappropriate amounts of them can interfere with ovulation.  Other hormones can also throw it off
1.b. Disorders of the uterus and cervix – fibroids, polyps, and other growths on the wall of the uterus can prevent a fertilized egg from nestling into and then attaching to the uterine wall.  An abnormal shaped cervix or cervical mucus that is too thick or hostile to sperm can form physical barriers that keep sperm from meeting the egg inside the fallopian tube.
1.c. Damage to the Fallopian Tubes – a blockage, full or partial, of the fallopian tube can interfere with conception by preventing the sperm from entering.  A common cause is pelvic inflammatory disease (a complication of Chlamydia, gonorrhea, other STDs, or other viral or bacterial infections)
1.d.  Endometriosis – the growth of endometrial tissues where it isn’t suppose to.  By covering/growing into the ovaries or by distorting or blocking the fallopian tubes, endometriosis hinder conception or the development of the fertilized egg
1.e. Immune Attack – the immune system sees sperms or fertilized eggs/embryos to be foreign invaders, thereby, the white blood cells attack and destroy them
1.f.  Polycystic Ovaries – As many as one in ten women have a condition known as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).  This problem can affect woman’s menstrual cycle and fertility and is the most common cause of ovulatory infertility

3.      COUPLE FACTOR – which is basically focused on mistimed intercourse

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1.      WEIGHT LOSS / WEIGHT GAIN – always aim for a healthy weight.  The ideal weight should be having a BMI (body mass index) within the range of 20 to 24.  This is the fertility zone range.   Those who have a BMI of 25 and above should have to reduce their weight by at least 5%.  Those who have a BMI of lower than 18 should increase their weight.
Calculate your BMI here ( )
Weight affects men’s fertility too as excess weight can lower testosterone levels, throw off the ratio of testosterone to estrogen, and hinder the production of sperm cells that are good swimmers.  They also need to maintain a healthy weight that is within the BMI range of 18 to 24.9.

2.      BE PHYSICALLY ACTIVE – if you aren’t physicall active, start a daily exercise activity.    If you are already exercising, pick up the pace of your workouts.  But do not overdo it specially if you are quite lean (BMI lower than 18) as too much exercise can work against conception.  But if your BMI is above 25, having a vigorous exercise per day will improve chances of ovulation

3.      MEDICATIONS – Two classes of drugs traditionally used to treat diabetes have been used to improve blood sugar, lowered insulin and androgen levels, and promote ovulation in women with PCOS, these are:
-          METFORMIN (generic and glucophage) : it cuts down on the liver’s release of stored glucose.  This means that the pancreas doesn’t need to make as much insulin.  With less insulin in circulation, the ovaries generate less testosterone and other adrogens, which is good for ovulation.
-          THIAZOLIDINEDIONES ( rosiglitazone and pioglitazone):  helps muscles, liver and fat cells respond for efficiently to insulin.  This helps keeps blood sugar levels in check after a meal or snack.

4.      DIET – see the fertility diet below
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1.      Slow carbs, not low carbs do not ditch carbohydrates, keep them as part of your meal.  Choose carbohydrates that have lower, slower effects on blood sugar and insulin, those that have low glycemic index (below 55) and glycemic load (below 10), rather than highly refined carbohydrates that quickly boost blood sugar and insulin
Good carbs whole grains (brown rice, whole wheat breads, etc), beans, whole fruits, vegetables, nuts
Bad carbs white rice, white pasta/noodles, white breads, potatoes, sugared beverages (softdrinks, sodas, fruit-flavored drinks), fruit juices, cakes, sweets, chips (potato, corn, popcorn), beers, etc
Check our post on Glycemic Index to better understand it.

2.      Balancing fats:  not all fats are bad, in fact you need fat to ensure that your system is working well.   Eat foods that are rich in mono-unsaturated fats and poly-unsaturated fats as this will help boost your fertility.  Eat less food that high in saturated fats.  Completely avoid food with trans fats

Fat familyGood sourcesDaily target
Eat moreMonounsaturated fatsolives & olive oils, canola, peanut, and other nut oils; hazelnuts, almonds, cashews, peanuts, and other nuts; peanut and other nut butters; avocados; sesame, pumpkin, and other seeds10 to 15% of calories (22 – 27 grams)
Eat morePolyunsaturated fatsVegetable oils (corn, soybean, & safflower oils); soybeans and other legumes/beans; walnuts; fatty fish (salmon, tuna, herring, and anchovies)  Foods that are good sources of monounsaturated fats also contain some polyunsaturated fats.

Foods rich in omega-3 and omega-6
8 to 10% of calories (17-22 grams)
Eat lessSaturated fatsRed meat; whole milk, cream butter, cheese, and ice cream; coconuts and coconut products, palm oilUnder 8% of calories (under 17 grams)
Completely avoidTrans fatsAny products containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (margarine; vegetable shorteningUnder 2 grams.  Zero if possible

3.      Plant protein rules:  The findings in the study shows the following:
-     Adding one serving a day of red meat, chicken, or turkey predicted nearly 1/3 increase in the risk of ovulatory infertility
-     Adding one serving a day of  fish or eggs didn’t influence ovulatory fertility
-     Adding one serving a day of beans, peas, tofu, or soybeans, peanuts or other nuts predicted modest protection against ovulatory infertility

This shows further  that adding animal protein instead of carbohydrates was related to a greater risk of ovulatory infertility.  And that adding plant protein instead of carbohydrates was related to a greater risk of ovulatory infertility.  The study concluded that adding plant protein instead of animal proteinmay lower down the risk of ovulatory infertility by 50%.  Plant protein sources are nuts, beans and legumes

4.      Take a Break, skim:  Temporarily avoid low-fat or reduced fat dairy products.  The study shows that a daily serving or two of full fat or whole milk or other full-fat dairy products (yogurts, cheeses, icecream etc.) may improve ovulation.
5.      Mighty Micros :  Take multivitamins that contains folic acid and other B vitamins, and iron, and calcium.  It will improve ovulation and conception
Folic Acid -  at least 700 mcg per day
Iron – the fertility benefits begin to appear with a dosage between 40 and 80 mg a day.
For men, a daily dose of multivitamins may improve a man’s fertility too as much as it does a woman.  Vitamins and minerals help boost the number and quality of sperm cells.
Folic Acid (5,000 mcg), iron (66 mg), Vitamin A, and zinc – helps in the reproduction of new healthy sperm cells
Vitamin E – helps immature sperm cells develop and plays a role in the secretion of prostrate proteins

6.      Stay Hydrated but Beverages matter:  Drink at least 8 glasses or 2 L of liquid per day.  That includes all liquid, water, juices, milk, soups, etc. that you ingest in a day.  Water is by far the best recommended and healthiest beverage to drink.  Drink coffee and/or tea in moderation and as much as possible avoid the sugar that often goes with them.  As much as possible, do not consume alcohol.  Soft drinks, sugared sodas, MUST BE TOTALLY AVOIDED
Caffeine and alcohol affect men’s fertility too as much as they do women.  So coffee and alcohol intake must be in the moderate range.
7.      Watch your calorie intake per day – The recommended amount of calorie intake per person depends on his/her weight, height, and physical activity.  If your weight is within the fertility zone (with a BMI between the range of 20-24) you need to have a specific amount of calorie intake to maintain your weight.  If your aim is to lose weight, you have to reduce your daily calorie intake by at least 250 kcal per day.   If your maintaining caloric intake per day is supposed to be 2,000 kcal, reduce that by 250 kcal in order to lose weight so your calorie intake per day should be 1,750 kcal or below.
This principle also applies to men who needs to lose weight.
See our post on Recommended Dietary Allowance  for the estimated individual's calorie needed per day .

1 comment:

  1. Enhancing fertility by the way you eat may greatly affect or enhance fertility. This post is very informative. Thanks for sharing this.