Plant-Based Foods Best for Reproductive Health, New Study Finds

New evidence shows that a plant-based diet may have the greatest benefit for reproductive health. Specifically, a diet high in carbohydrates and rich in whole grains and soy can increase pregnancy and live birth rates, according to a new study published in the medical journal Reproductive toxicology.

The study aimed to review current evidence supporting the role of nutrition as a modifiable risk factor for female infertility and poor in vitro fertilization (IVF) outcomes.

Current estimates show that 15 to 20 percent of couples experience infertility – defined as the inability to conceive after 12 months of trying. Rising infertility rates have made researchers increasingly interested in identifying modifiable lifestyle and environmental factors that may influence reproductive health.

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The potential impact of certain dietary patterns, such as the Mediterranean and Western diets, and specific foods on infertility has also been extensively studied.

How foods affect fertility

In this new study, the researchers reviewed the complex relationship between nutrition and fertility, with a particular focus on carbohydrates, proteins, and fatty acids.

​​​​The study found that higher whole grain intake was associated with higher pregnancy and live birth rates. Likewise, eating more vegetables after intracytoplasmic sperm injection (where one sperm is injected into each egg using a microscopic needle) has been shown to improve embryo quality.

Carbohydrate intake and breakdown also appear to regulate ovarian function. In fact, the risk of ovarian infertility was about 80 percent higher among women who ate the most carbs compared to those with the lowest carb intake in the 2009 Nurses’ Health Study II.

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In addition, a diet with less than 45 percent of total energy intake from carbohydrates has been shown to improve polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) symptoms by increasing follicle-stimulating hormone and sex hormone-binding globulin levels, while decreasing all testosterone and insulin. levels.

This is correlated with reduced weight in PCOS patients who are overweight or obese, according to the study. Women with PCOS may not ovulate, have high levels of androgens, and many small cysts on the ovaries.

With a diet containing half of the daily calories from carbohydrates, a greater number of ova were retrieved, and higher clinical pregnancy and live birth rates were recorded in infertile and obese infertile women during IVF.

However, there was also a weak link between sugary soda consumption and a lower number of eggs retrieved and embryos obtained through ovarian stimulation cycles, as well as a reduced live birth rate.

Animal protein linked to ovarian disorders

​​​​The study found that animal protein intake is positively linked to ovulatory disorders compared to plant proteins. In fact, it has been shown that 5 percent of energy intake provided by vegetable proteins rather than animal proteins reduced the risk of ovulatory disorders by more than 50 percent.

In addition, soy consumption is correlated with better results during IVF.

“There is fair evidence that animal-based proteins affect women’s fertility rather than those [from] plant-based [sources]suggesting that protein source may be an important determinant of reproductive success,” the study states.

The study found no conclusive evidence of an impact of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids on IVF outcomes. However, better pregnancy odds appear to be correlated with increased consumption of omega-3 fatty acids – which are found in plant-based foods such as walnuts, flaxseeds, soybeans and canola oil, and are also found in fish and food another sea.

The study’s authors note that more research is needed to examine how nutrition is associated with increased exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals and at what levels to better understand its impact on function. reproduced.

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“Overall, nutrition appears to represent a modifiable factor that may play a significant role in the context of female reproduction and IVF outcomes, but the limited number of studies and the inconsistencies between available data call for further research in the field,” the study. Finishes.

A plant-based diet prevents endometriosis

In addition to diet affecting pregnancy rates and outcomes, researchers have examined how foods affect the female reproductive system in other ways. A study published earlier this year in the medical journal Limits in Nutrition found that eating a plant-based diet, along with other nutritional interventions such as avoiding meat and eating seaweed, could help prevent and treat endometriosis.

“Eating meat and fatty foods can lead to excess estrogen in the body, which can flare up endometriosis pain, while fiber – found only in fruit, vegetables, grains and beans – can help reduce pain by flushing excess estrogen from the body. ,” Hana Kahleova, MD, PhD, director of clinical research at the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, said in a statement.

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Meanwhile, previous research has noted benefits of a plant-based diet on women’s menstrual cycle. An analysis of studies presented at the North American Menopause Society annual meeting last year suggested that diet may be a major contributor to menstrual pain (also known as dysmenorrhea).

This research showed that while diets high in inflammatory foods such as meat, oil, sugar, salt and coffee can make the pain worse, a vegan diet was shown to reduce the pain by reducing the inflammation that contributes to it. .

Previous research has also found that a plant-based diet has benefits for women’s health, such as its ability to reduce menopausal hot flashes. A study published in the journal menopause at the North American Menopause Association found that a plant-based diet rich in whole soybeans reduces moderate-to-severe hot flashes by 84 percent.

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