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Very High Protein Diets May Harm Fertility
Many women with PCOS who are trying to conceive embark upon high protein diets to tame high insulin and androgen levels, however, very high protein intakes may actually reduce fertility according to some research. Researchers (9) at the Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine (CCRM) have linked high protein diets to impaired fertility and less viable offspring. Their studies (on mice) found that a diet rich in protein - 25 percent protein (typical of the daily Atkins' Diet protein consumption) - could have an adverse effect on female fertility compared to a normal 14% protein diet. Just one third of the group eating a high-protein diet were able to become pregnant, compared to 70% in the normal diet group; the rate of pregnancy loss was also greater when protein intake was high. This is an important finding to be aware of especially if you are following a high-protein diet such as the the South Beach or Atkin’s diet.
High protein diets are thought to interfere with fertility by increasing the amount of ammonium in the female reproductive tract which could have an adverse effect on delicate embryos. The researchers concluded that:
"These findings, together with similar work carried out in cows, mean that it would be prudent to advise couples who are trying to conceive, either naturally or via ART, to ensure that the woman's protein intake is less than 20% of their total energy consumption.”
“The available data certainly indicate that a high protein diet is not advisable while trying to conceive." (9)
A mix of proteins may be ideal for creating a healthy fertility diet, some experts believe that a fertility diet should contain plenty of varied plant-based proteins - think beans and lentils - with a moderate amount of lean grass fed meats, fish and organic eggs to avoid the damaging effects of excessive animal protein.
A number of studies have found that fertility may be increased when couples follow a Mediterranean type diet; this diet-style typically includes plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits, beans, lentils, whole grains along with lean meats, fish, eggs and dairy foods. A traditional Mediterranean diet also contains plenty of olive oil, herbs and spices which are very antioxidant-rich foods. You may need to re-think very high protein diets when trying to conceive; becoming familiar with the glycemic index can help you to make sure that you are choosing low-glycemic foods which release sugars slowly into your system when you re-introduce more grains and carbohydrate-based foods.
This article is for purely informational purposes and in not intended to replace medical or nutritional advice for which you should see a physician or dietitian.
(9) 20th Annual Conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology. June 29 2004 Abstract no: O-076
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