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New 'Fertility Diet' Gives Couples Hope

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  • New 'Fertility Diet' Gives Couples Hope

    Fat, Carbs and the Science of ConceptionSlow Carbs, Not No Carbstotal amount of carbohydrate in the diet wasn't connected with ovulatory infertility. Women in the low-carb and high-carb groups were equally likely to have had fertility problems. That wasn't a complete surprise. As we described earlier, different carbohydrate sources can have different effects on blood sugar, insulin and long-term health.

    Evaluating total carbohydrate intake can hide some important differences. So we looked at something called the glycemic load. This relatively new measure conveys information about both the amount of carbohydrate in the diet and how quickly it is turned to blood sugar. The more fast carbs in the diet, the higher the glycemic load. (For more on glycemic load, go to Women in the highest glycemic-load category were 92 percent more likely to have had ovulatory infertility than women in the lowest category, after accounting for age, smoking, how much animal and vegetable protein they ate, and other factors that can also influence fertility. In other words, eating a lot of easily digested carbohydrates increases the odds of ovulatory infertility, while eating more slow carbs decreases the odds.

    Because the participants of the Nurses' Health Study complete reports every few years detailing their average daily diets, we were able to see if certain foods contributed to ovulatory infertility more than others. In general, cold breakfast cereals, white rice and potatoes were linked with a higher risk of ovulatory infertility. Slow carbs, such as brown rice, pasta and dark bread, were linked with greater success getting pregnant.

    Computer models of the nurses' diets were also revealing. We electronically replaced different nutrients with carbohydrates. Most of these substitutions didn't make a difference. One, though, did. Adding more carbohydrates at the expense of naturally occurring fats predicted a decrease in fertility. This could very well mean that natural fats, especially unsaturated fats, improve ovulation when they replace easily digested carbohydrates.

    In a nutshell, results from the Nurses' Health Study indicate that the amount of carbohydrates in the diet doesn't affect fertility, but the qualityBalancing FatsdietaryThe Protein FactorMilk and Ice CreamThe Fertility DietThe Role of Body WeightThe Importance of ExerciseHomo sapiensChavarro and Willett are in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. Skerrett is editor of the Harvard Heart Letter. For more information, go to or .
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