Nutrition to increase fertility has been an important topic over the years. It’s known that poor eating habits, low consumption of certain nutrients, and ingesting toxins can affect people’s reproductive capacity.
That said, those who are interested in conceiving – both women and men – should change their diet, duly advised by a specialist. However, there are some general recommendations that everyone can apply. In the following article, we’ll take a look at examples of nutrition to increase fertility.
What is Infertility?
The World Health Organization defines infertility as a disease of the reproductive system. It can be male or female, resulting in the impossibility of conceiving.
There are two degrees of infertility. Primary infertility is when pregnancy can’t be achieved, whereas secondary infertility is the inability to achieve pregnancy after a previous conception.
There can be many causes, both on the male and female sides. Environmental and lifestyle factors are known to influence this problem. Among these, nutrition plays a key role. Conditions such as being overweight, obese or underweight are frequent causes.
Why does nutrition affect fertility?
The physical factors that typically condition fertility are the following:
- Being older.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome.
- Reproductive system disorders.
- Hormonal problems.
- Following diets unbalanced in nutrients.
- Sedentary lifestyle.
- Use of drugs, tobacco, and alcohol.
A study published by the Harvard Medical School concluded that excessive intake of saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, and animal proteins can be detrimental to fertility. On the contrary, a regular intake of complex carbohydrates, fiber, monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids could be beneficial.
Regarding the abundant intake of fats and the appearance of adipose tissue that causes obesity, it can be caused by hormonal imbalance. In particular, in women, leptin increases and testosterone concentrations rise, which decreases progesterone.
The opposite occurs in men. Progesterone increases and testosterone decreases, and both hormones associated with their fertility. In turn, an additional problem occurs – insulin resistance.
When glucose cannot enter the cells, the pancreas secretes more insulin. Consequently, there’s a drop in the production of eggs, and their quality decreases. In men, the quality of spermatozoa decreases.
The role of micro and macronutrients
Malnutrition can also lead to infertility. This is because low weight causes problems during the ovulation process, according to research published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Micronutrient and macronutrient deficiencies, as well as a diet low in antioxidants, can be an influential factor in infertility. In this regard, a study in animals found that a high-fat diet, applied for 9 weeks, reduced sperm motility.
In fact, their reproductive capacity was compromised because they showed increased DNA fragmentation. The results also showed an increased presence of free radicals.
For this reason, the researchers concluded that a poor diet leads to oxidative stress and DNA damage. However, more research in humans is needed.
What type of diet promotes fertility?
Carbohydrate consumption, replacement of animal proteins with vegetable proteins, and consumption of monounsaturated fats are beneficial for reproductive health. Likewise, the consumption of vitamins such as folic acid, B12, D, C, E, and A all favor fertility.
Regarding carbohydrates, it’s evident that low glycemic index carbohydrates are the most effective for this purpose. Meanwhile, research suggests that vegetable proteins decrease the risk of ovulation-related problems.
It has also been found that men with a higher serum concentration of omega-3 have better sperm quality. Omega-3 supplementation can also reduce testosterone levels and improve insulin resistance in women with polycystic ovary syndrome.
As for vitamins, it’s known that folic acid can help prevent problems during pregnancy, but there is also evidence that it contributes to sperm quantity and quality. The same is true for vitamin B12, as indicated by some studies.
In the case of vitamin A, studies indicate the following benefits:
- Helps synthesize sex hormones.
- Participates in the formation of sperm.
- Protects the egg and sperm from oxidative damage.
- Facilitates implantation of the fertilized egg.
Vitamin D, research indicates, favors the synthesis of the reproductive hormone antimüllerian, which is used to measure female fertility, as it intervenes in ovarian reserve. In men, when deficient, it’s associated with low testosterone.
Ultimately, vitamins C and E help combat oxidation of both sperm and eggs, according to studies.
What to consider in nutrition to increase fertility?
As compiled by a study in Frontiers in Public Health, dietary intake and reproductive health are closely related. Because of this, the following recommendations should be put into practice:
- Increase the consumption of food sources of antioxidants, such as yellow, red and purple fruits and vegetables. At least 5 servings per day or 400 grams are recommended.
- Reinforce the intake of vitamin E and folic acid with nuts. A handful or 30 grams a day is enough.
- Increase vegetable protein intake. About 3 or 4 weekly servings of legumes such as soybeans, beans, lentils, and chickpeas, among others. Each serving represents between 60 to 80 grams (around 3 oz) raw.
- Consume low glycemic index carbohydrates, such as legumes and whole grains.
- Eat 2 or 3 servings of fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and tuna, which contain omega 3. Each serving should be around 230 grams (9 oz).
- Consume a folic acid supplementation monitored by a specialist.
- Eat trout, beef liver and eggs, especially the yolk, which are sources of vitamin D.
- Reinforce with vitamin C, vitamin E, and vitamin A supplements, according to the indications of specialists.
Similarly, it’s recommended to reduce the consumption of trans fats, saturated fatty acids, and animal protein. Of course, always under the supervision of a health professional.
It is possible to increase fertility through nutrition
Fertility problems have multiple origins that should be evaluated by a physician. Even so, it has been proven that nutrition plays a role for better or worse in this condition.
Therefore, it’s advisable to consult a nutritionist and implement a diet that favors hormonal balance and other factors related to reproductive health.