Healthy Decisions for the Love of Health

Low fat dairy raises infertility risk, study

By Chris Mercer

 

Low  fat dairy products like skimmed milk may significantly increase their risk of becoming infertile, new research from the US claims.

Eating two or more servings of low fat dairy foods every day appeared to give women an 85 per cent higher chance of infertility due to a lack of ovulation, known as anovulatory infertility, researchers found.

Their work, published in Europe's leading reproductive medicine journal, Human Reproduction, may raise concerns in light of current consumer trends towards lower fat dairy products.

The US-based research team looked at dietary and lifestyle habits of 18,555 women with no history of infertility, aged between 24 and 42. The women were originally part of another study done between 1991 and 1999.

During the eight years, 438 healthy women became infertile due to an ovulatory disorder, and the researchers linked their problems back to low fat dairy.

Women who ate at least one serving of high fat dairy every day, such as ice cream, appeared to reduce their risk of ovulatory infertility by 27 per cent, however.

Dr Jorge Chavarro, lead researcher, said information on the link was scarce and called for more studies "in order to confirm or refute the findings".

He advised women wanting to conceive to switch to full fat dairy, but added: "Once they have become pregnant, then they should probably switch back to low fat dairy foods as it is easier to limit intake of saturated fat by consuming [these]."

Professor Chris Barratt, a fertility expert from the University of Birmingham, told this publication the research may have some basis in fact.

"The key thing here is that this is a big study. I think you can take some confidence in that.

"We've known for some time that patients with low body weight have very significant problems ovulating, and patients overweight also have problems ovulating."

Barratt said people "shouldn't get carried away" at this stage, and that little was known about the mechanism by which foods could affect fertility. Age, he added, was a much bigger factor in declining fertility in women.

But, he remained open to the idea: "Diet affects every other part of your body so why not fertility?"

Source: Human Reproduction
Published 28 February, doi:10.1093/humrep/dem019
"A prospective study of dairy foods intake and anovulatory infertility "
Lead author: Dr Jorge Chavarro, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, US.

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