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Infertility has become a significant health issue globally, with women across Scandinavia, Australia, New Zealand, the US and the UK reporting higher infertility rates than ever before and according to the research our diets may be to blame.
A recent scientific review revealed a highly inflammatory diet common in today’s modern world may be contributing to infertility, miscarriage and inability to carry a baby full-term¹.
Typically consisting of energy-dense, high glycaemic foods, the modern diet is proposedly stricken of necessary dietary fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Specifically, the ‘common’ diet is said to lack monounsaturated fats, flavonoids, vitamins C and E, and polyphenols which are all essential components of an anti-inflammatory diet².
Inflammatory foods known to cause stress on the body, including the reproductive system, include sugar, alcohol, red and processed meats, refined grains such as white bread, pasta and breakfast cereals specifically.
Research has revealed preconception diets focused on reducing inflammation have shown to increase fertility among women. Foods known to reduce inflammation include antioxidant rich berries, omega-3 rich walnuts and olive oil, and fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines.
In line with this, polyphenol supplementation has shown positive effects on fertility rates, implying a plant-dense diet could also be beneficial for those battling with infertility³. Polyphenol rich foods include brightly coloured berries, nuts, seeds and spices.
According to a study of couples undergoing IVF, a 6-week dietary supplementation of a daily drink rich in omega-3 and vitamin D, combined with an increase of olive oil in the daily diet showed an improved embryo quality among 111 couples⁵ highlighting the benefits in dual partner lifestyle and dietary shifts.
Beyond this, women with diagnosed reproductive conditions such as endometriosis and PCOS have also shown positive fertility outcomes when shifting to an anti-inflammatory diet. One study revealed that Vitamin E and C supplementation decreased inflammation and oxidative stress in women with endometriosis while another study disclosed women with PCOS who transitioned to an anti-inflammatory diet experienced a reduced risk of miscarriage by more than 20%⁴.
While there are many contributing factors to infertility, miscarriage and inability to carry a baby full-term dietary changes have shown to induce a positive effect, while also incurring many other desirable health outcomes.
Here’s our top tips on how to optimise food to support your fertility journey:
- Reduce inflammatory foods such as sugar, alcohol, red and processed meats, refined grains such as white bread, pasta and breakfast cereals
- Increase anti-inflammatory foods rich in monounsaturated fats, omega-3, flavonoids, vitamins C, D and E, and polyphenols
- Monounsaturated fats: avocado, nuts, seeds, olives, olive oil
- Omega-3: mackerel, salmon, sardines, herring, flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts
- Flavonoids: apples, blueberries, cherries, tangerines, kale, green tea
- Vitamin C: oranges, kiwi fruit, lemon, grapefruit, strawberries
- Vitamin D3: trout, salmon, sardines, algae
- Vitamin E: sunflower seeds, pumpkin, peanuts, collard greens, spinach
- Polyphenols: brightly coloured berries, nuts, seeds and spices