Food and Fertility - Fact and Fiction
In the study described in this video led by Kaisa Selesniemi of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, researchers found feeding adult female mice less slowed the aging process in their ovaries. This led to an extension of their fertility by a considerable number of months, which would translate into many years for women.
Two groups of mice were created, one that was fed reduced-calorie diets for four months and one that was allowed to eat whatever quantities of food the animals desired. The scientists, whose paper was published in the journal Aging Cell, discovered that restricting calorie intake in adulthood doubled the mice's ovarian follicle reserve.
For the control group, the average age for the mice to lose their fertility was 15.5 months. In the low-calorie experimental group, after 15.5 months of age, the mice were allowed to eat any amounts they wished. The result was that almost half of these mice experienced a six-month fertility extension (the equivalent of about 16 years in women), and approximately one-third were able to have litters up to 23 months of age.
Moreover, the fecundity and offspring survival rates of the experimental group were vastly greater than those of the control group. Specifically, 10- to 23-month-old mice in the control group delivered 54 pups, only 22 percent of which survived. But in the experimental group, 15.5- to 23-month-old mice delivered 94 offspring, over 73 percent of which survived without any complications.
Does this kind of research translate to humans? Yes and no. While reducing caloric intake has shown many health benefits, it is also known that too severe a diet can reduce a woman’s chances for becoming pregnant and in the most severe cases anorexia and resulting amenorrhea can occur which can inhibit a woman’s natural menstrual function.
Here a few wise food choices women can take to promote their own fertility.
Complex carbohydrates versus refined carbohydrates. The difference? Complex carbohydrates do not turn as quickly into sugars which can create dramatic blood sugar cycles and insulin spikes. Stabilized blood glucose helps promote fertility.
Good quality plant proteins from beans, peas, and peanuts have been associated with increased fertility. Beans also have a high iron content - another potent ingredient for good fertility. The high anti-oxidant levels in plant nutrients also add to the fertility factor.
And now the good news: whole milk, full-fat yogurt, and even ice cream have been correlated with improved fertility than low-fat foods – according to an important research study out of Harvard no less. But as any doctor will tell you – don’t overdo the ice cream just because you want to get pregnant.
And while on the subject of fats – avoid trans fats and saturated fats. Similar to the basics of a healthy diet in general, a good fertility diet includes food that provide good fats – monosaturated, polyunsaturated and omega 3 fatty acids – the fats found in fish, olive oil, nuts, etc. These fats reduce inflammation and improve insulin sensitivity.
Best foods for men? For men it is important to maintain adequate amounts of zinc that supports sperm function. This is why fresh, zinc-rich oysters has always been considered a good fertility food. Other research also supports Vitamin E, Vitamin D with Calcium as fertility boosters for men – all of which support sperm motility.