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Can ingesting too much dairy affect your fertility?

When it comes to dairy products and your fertility, can there be too much of a good thing?
When it comes to dairy products and your fertility, can there be too much of a good thing?
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If the relationship between dairy and fertility was categorized on a social media page, it would likely be slugged "it's complicated." Thousands of women and hopeful couples wouldn't flock to infertility specialists each year if adding or subtracting a glass of milk was a miracle cure. But there's a small body of research that clarifies the influence of milk and milk byproducts on fertility.

There is a proven connection between a woman's Body Mass Index (BMI) and fertility. Unhealthy body weight -- either too high or too low -- can disrupt the menstrual cycle, complicating or preventing a pregnancy [source: Institute for Reproductive Health]. This is where we find the indirect link between dairy and fertility. Naturally, an obese or overweight woman who's eating a diet high in calories can increase her odds of becoming pregnant by reducing her intake of high-fat dairy. Likewise, an overly skinny woman seeking to get pregnant would be better served to eliminate skim milk and consider adding whole milk products to her diet. But the connection between dairy and fertility goes deeper.

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Limited research seems to indicate that whole milk products positively affect fertility if that intake is reasonable -- say, one or two glasses (4.5 deciliters) of milk a day or half a cup (118 grams) of ice cream twice a week [sources: Chavarro; Institute for Reproductive Health]. Some doctors suggest that two servings of whole milk dairy products each day can lead to a whopping 25 percent increase in a woman's odds of becoming pregnant [source: Curtis. At the same time, other infertility specialists recommend the complete elimination of dairy from the diet due to concerns about growth hormones, pesticides and viruses [source: Dunne]. Opinions vary on the issue of dairy and its affect on fertility. Ask your physician about his or her conclusions on the matter and what they're based upon.

The role of low-fat milk in pregnancy is, in some ways, a separate issue. Click ahead to learn more.

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Overweight and obese women are more likely to have difficulty becoming pregnant. Approximately 63 percent of U.S. women are overweight or obese [source: Science Daily]. With that in mind, it would seem to make sense that women seeking to get pregnant should consume milk that is low in fat. But Harvard researchers have found that women who consume low-fat dairy two times each day are far more likely to experience infertility issues associated with ovulation than women who rarely eat or drink dairy. In fact, they had an 85 percent greater chance of experiencing ovulation problems than women who said they only consumed low-fat dairy once every week at the most [source: Medical News Today].

It's unclear why low-fat dairy appears to adversely affect fertility, but several theories exist. There's reason to believe that some of the substances that may be responsible for increased fertility rates among full-fat consumers are removed when low-fat milk is processed. Low-fat milk additives could also be to blame.

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Whey is often added to low-fat milk to make it more visually appealing and to give the product a better taste. Unfortunately whey protein may influence a body in the same way testosterone does. Tests involving mice and whey consumption have led to that conclusion. If that's, in fact, the case, then low-fat milk may actually lead to a hormonal imbalance in women that's associated with infertility [source: Medical News Today].

Even so, researchers suggest that women who have become pregnant while consuming full-fat dairy products should resume their intake of low-fat dairy once they are expecting to minimize saturated fat in their diet [source: Medical News Today].

There are countless components of fertility ranging from a woman's weight to hormonal imbalances to healthy diet and age. The affect of dairy is becoming clearer, although it's a focus of continued research.

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Related Articles

Sources

  • Chavarro, Jorge E., M.D. "How Diet Affects Fertility." The Daily Beast. Dec. 1, 2007. (June 11, 2012) http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2007/12/01/fat-carbs-and-the-science-of-conception.html
  • Curtis, Glade B., Judith Shuler. "Your Pregnancy Week by Week, (7th Edition.) Da Capo Press. 2011.
  • Dinan, Stephen. "Feds Sting Amish Farmer Selling Raw Milk Locally." The Washington Times. April 28, 2011. (June 11, 2012) http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/apr/28/feds-sting-amish-farmer-selling-raw-milk-locally/?page=all
  • Dunne, Nancy and William Slater. "The Natural Diet Solution for PCOS and Infertility." Health Solutions Press. March 1, 2006.
  • Everyday Health. "Foods That Make You Fertile." (June 11, 2012) http://www.everydayhealth.com/pregnancy/getting-pregnant/foods-that-make-you-fertile.aspx
  • Institute for Reproductive Health. "Fertility Diet." (June 11, 2012) http://www.cincinnatifertility.com/holistic-treatment/fertility-diet
  • Medical News Today. "Reduced Fertility In Women Linked to Low Fat Dairy Food." March, 2007. (June 12, 2012) http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/64192.php
  • Science Daily. "U.S. Population On Track to Getting Even Fatter." Nov. 16, 2011. (June 12, 2012) http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111116132920.htm

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