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Is there a connection between fertility and diet?

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Eating a healthy diet to boost fertility is one of the most powerful changes we can make in our attempt to become parents. Numerous studies have shown that specific diet can improve fertility, prevent recurrent miscarriage and help through a healthy pregnancy. That is because nutrition plays a vital role when it comes to having a healthy body and reproductive system.

Researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School have published a review of past studies that examined how the diet affects fertility.

For women trying to become pregnant naturally, folic acid, vitamin B12, omega-3 fatty acids and healthy diets (such as the Meditettanean diet) were linked to positive effects on fertility.

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On the other hand, antioxidants, vitamin D, dairy products, soy, caffeine, and alcohol appeared to have little or no effect on fertility, while trans fat and “unhealthy diets” that are “rich in red and processed meats, potatoes, sweets, and sweetened beverages” were found to have negative effects.

Studies of men have shown that semen quality is not a perfect predictor of fertility, and most studies have not actually examined the impact of paternal diet on the rate of successful pregnancies.

For couples receiving assisted reproductive technologies, women may be more likely to conceive with folic acid supplements or a diet high in isoflavones (plant-based estrogens with antioxidant activity).

Considering the average couple trying to become pregnant, this review results are not as surprising as the headlines might suggest. Of course, eating a healthy diet is a good idea for men and women. Extra folic acid, B12, and omega-3 fatty acids might be helpful for women, but healthy diets are overall considered positive for everyone, and a prenatal vitamin (which includes folic acid and vitamin B12) is already recommended for women who want to get pregnant, while folic acid supplementation is known to reduce the risk of developmental neurologic problems in the developing fetus.

Unanswered questions

Even if we accept these findings as important factors  to help us through our dietary choices, there are still questions that need to be answered such like how much folic acid or B12 is best, which sources and how many servings of dietary omega-3 fatty acids are best, are there people who need to pay more attention to dietary recommendations than others?

The answers are that the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, especially sodas or energy drinks, is linked to lower fertility for men and women, while drinking diet soda and fruit juice had no effect. Women who consumed high amounts of fast food and little fruit took longer to become pregnant than those with healthier diets. Couples eating more seafood were pregnant sooner than those rarely eating seafood.

As a conclusion, if you’re a man or a woman trying to become a parent, eat a healthy diet, and take a prenatal vitamin daily, at least a month before trying to conceive and try to maintain a healthy weight prior to conception. Most importantly, consider booking an appointment with your doctor for a “preconception” visit to review what you can do to have a successful pregnancy, having a specific diet included.

 

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