Can Your Diet Make You More Fertile?

Kate Moss wants a baby — so badly, in fact, that she has switched her diet to that used by actress Gwyneth Paltrow to aid her fertility, according to British media reports.

But can a change in diet actually help increase the odds of getting pregnant? Nutrition and reproductive health experts say yes — but add that a healthy diet for fertility may have more to do with common sense than fad regimens.

Dr. Jorge Chavarro, research fellow in the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, is also co-author of The Fertility Diet, a book published last year that reveals some of the links between certain foods and a woman's ability to conceive.

"We know that there are multiple aspects of diet that have been associated with a decreased chance of experiencing a certain decrease in function when it comes to fertility," he says.

Reproduction and nutrition experts agree that a healthy diet can go a long way toward improving fertility in a number of ways.

"Poor nutrition has been associated with fertility issues and ovulation problems," notes fertility specialist Dr. Celia Dominguez, assistant professor of gynecology and obstetrics at Emory University in Atlanta. "Diet plays a critical role, and by improving her diet a woman can also improve her chances of making an egg."

But Chavarro adds that while his research, gleaned from the now-famous Harvard Nurses' Study, suggests certain dietary changes that women can make, most of what he and his colleagues have found is that a fertility-friendly diet has few surprises.

"What we have found does not necessarily point toward any specific miracle food other than an overall, generally good and healthy diet," he says.

Of Fads and Fertility

"You can certainly identify a few nutrients that have a relation to reproductive status," says Dr. David Katz, associate professor of public health and director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale University in New Haven, Conn. But he adds that the true picture of diet and fertility is often complicated by the new diets and fertility claims that hit the scene on a regular basis.

And because Paltrow had reportedly adhered to what is known as a macrobiotic diet in an effort to help her pregnancy chances, this could be the fad diet du jour upon which many women who want to conceive hang their hopes.

"I'd have some concerns," Katz says. "People interpret a 'macrobiotic diet' differently."

He says most worrying about the macrobiotic diet is how it becomes progressively more restrictive. By the end of the diet, strict followers are consuming only unprocessed rice and water — a poor formula for fertility.

"The basic attributes of a macrobiotic diet are fine — plant-based, natural and organic," Katz says. "And yes, this type of diet has the potential to enhance fertility, as it helps in insulin regulation and increasing levels of certain hormones. But if it were a very strict interpretation, I would caution against that."

Dominguez says different fad diets aimed at enhancing fertility may lead to more stress than they are worth.

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