Saturday, January 26, 2008

Fats and fertility

Rob and I decided a while back to retire from the baby-making business. We’re content with our cozy family of four. But for all of you out there who are still interested in getting pregnant – or who have friends who are struggling on that point, here is an article worth reading. Granted I’m a month and a half late sharing it and some of you probably already read it, but I didn’t get to it until this week.

It was the December 6 Newsweek cover story, which reviewed a bunch of the key findings presented in The Fertility Diet, a Harvard Medical Book that offers strategies for increasing your fertility odds simply by eating healthfully -- based on data from 18,000 women who took part in a long-term research project called the Nurse’s Health Study (which examined how diet and other factors affected a broad range of chronic conditions including heart disease and cancer). So there’s implications for how to stay healthy for those of us not personally vested in fertility probabilities anymore.

And for the thousands of women who consider fertility treatment every year, it would be nice to know that just some basic dietary manipulations might solve the problem naturally. Of course it’s not a panacea. The recommendations are aimed at preventing and reversing ovulatory infertility, which they say accounts for one quarter or more of all cases of infertility. And I’m sure there are plenty of causes of ovulatory infertility that are beyond the realm of a dietary fix.

One interesting finding though: “The more low-fat dairy products in a woman's diet, the more likely she was to have had trouble getting pregnant. The more full-fat dairy products in a woman's diet, the less likely she was to have had problems getting pregnant.” The authors don’t recommend consuming pints of ice cream at a time. They say “aim for one to two servings of dairy products a day, both of them full fat.” And they advise switching back to lowfat once you’re no longer pregnant. But I wonder about the broader implications for how whole fats consumed in moderation might be generally healthier for our bodies than they are generally given credit for.
(We’re still drinking whole milk and eating butter in moderation in our house after my interview with Sally Fallon of the Weston A. Price Foundation. I don't know if we’ve chosen the right path, but we’re at least enjoying the flavors. If you're interested in the whole saturated-fat-as-good-or-evil debate, this is another very interesting and fairly comprehensive article on the subject -- entitled "What if bad fat isn't so bad?" -- at

Highlights of the strategies outlined in "The Fertility Diet," according to the Web site for the book, include:

*Avoiding trans-fats, the artery-clogging fats found in many commercial products and fast foods
*Eating more vegetable protein, like beans and nuts, and less animal protein
*Drinking a glass of whole milk or having a small dish of ice cream or full-fat yogurt every day; temporarily trading in skim milk and low or no-fat dairy products for their full-fat versions
*Getting into the "fertility zones" for weight and physical activity.


shannon said...

Nice. Thank you, Annie. I had to fight with my husband for years before I finally gave in and starting drinking his watery milk (why even drink the stuff, just drink water!). Moderation. I believe that we should eat what our bodies tell us we need, in moderation. Thanks for pointing out the stuff no one wants to believe (after they've been talked into drinking skim milk years ago!). Good gosh! All those people who opt for skim milk in their coffee instead of cream? Yikes!

Annie Addington said...

Yeah, I was a skim milk purist for years. Now I don't know if I can bear to go back. I'm still planning on checking back in with research on this fat thing periodically. I wish the science would become really clear-cut on this one. But I agree, if you're eating whole foods (and whole fats) in moderation -- why not indulge? (Thanks for all the comments Shannon! Fun to hear your thoughts...)