Low Fat and Infertility

The idea that low fat dairy products are better for us than the full fat stuff is always being underlined for the public in magazines and by talk shows focused on nutrition, but it seems it isn't always so: women trying to conceive (TTC) are better off drinking whole fat milk and eating ice cream. In fact, researchers have established a firm link between a diet that emphasizes low fat milk products and an increased risk of infertility due to an inability to ovulate (anovulatory infertility). 

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The striking results of this study illustrated that women who ate two or more daily servings of low fat dairy foods increased their risk of infertility related to ovulatory problems by a figure greater than four fifths (85%) as compared to those women who ate less than one serving of low fat dairy products in the course of a week. Those women who ate at least one serving of high fat dairy products per day reduced their risk of anovulatory infertility by more than a quarter (27%) as compared to those eating one or less high fat dairy products a week.

Scream for Ice Cream!

Lead author of the study, Dr. Jorge Chavarro, a research fellow in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, said that more information must be obtained before doctors can make any conclusions about radical changes in diet for women with anovulatory infertility. However, he advises women who are TTC to make modest changes in their diets. "They should consider changing low-fat dairy foods for high-fat dairy foods; for instance, by swapping skimmed milk for whole milk and eating ice cream, not low fat yogurt."

Chavarro stressed that women still had to make the effort to limit their overall caloric intake and limit other saturated fats so as to stay in good health. He further advised that once women find they have become pregnant, it's best they go back to the low fat dairy products.

Chavarro and colleagues studied 18,555 women between the ages of 24-42 with no prior history of infertility. The study took place over the course of eight years. Of these women, 438 women were found infertile due to an ovulatory disorder. After researchers took into account various factors that might affect statistics, it was found that women who ate low fat dairy products two or more times a day increased their risk for anovulatory infertility by 85%, while those women who indulged in the creamy stuff at least once a day decreased their risk for this disorder by 27% as compared to those women who ate high fat dairy products only once a week or less. Even one extra serving of a low fat dairy food such as yogurt, seemed to increase this type of infertility by 11%. Those women who ate more ice cream, had a lower risk, as seen by the fact that women who ate the sweet treat two or more times a week lowered their risk by 38% as compared to the women who ate ice cream less than once a week.

The researchers think that there may be a fat-soluble substance present in high fat dairy foods that may improve ovarian function. Dr. Chavarro said, "The intake of dairy fat, or a fat-soluble substance present in dairy foods, may partly explain the inverse association between high-fat dairy foods and anovulatory infertility."

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