Last week I wrote about how eating more fruit may mitigate a woman’s chance of developing endometriosis. Now, a new study is showing us that eating fruit may have additional benefits for fertility. The study, published in the journal Human Reproduction, showed that women who ate more fruit and less fast food took less time to conceive a pregnancy than women who ate more fast food and very little fruit.
The study looked at the dietary habits of over 5,000 pregnant women in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Ireland. During each woman’s first prenatal visit, which occurred between weeks 14-16 of pregnancy, she was asked to recall what her diet was in the month preceding pregnancy. Specifically, the women answered questions about how much fruit, green leafy vegetables, fish, and fast foods they consumed. Women also answered questions regarding their fertility, such as how long it took them to conceive.
Women who ate fruit less than 3 times per month took longer to conceive than women who ate fruit 3 times per day. Similarly, women who ate fast food 4 or more times per week took longer to conceive. That being said, although it did take the women with worse diets longer to conceive, the difference was only 0.5 – 1 month longer.
In my opinion, the more significant difference that was seen was the effect of diet on infertility (taking longer than 12 months to conceive). For women with the lowest fruit intake, the risk of infertility increased from 8% to 12%. And, for women who ate the most fast food, the risk of infertility increased from 8% to 16%.
The study had several limitations, including asking women to recall their diets from several months in the past and including only a limited range of foods. One of the biggest strengths of the study though is that it included a large number of women. And, the results make sense. For instance, we know that women who are obese are more likely to have menstrual cycle irregularities and difficulty conceiving. So, it makes sense that diet plays a role in fertility.
The biggest take home message from this study is that it is important to have good dietary habits prior to pregnancy. This may make it easier to conceive and carrying on those habits would certainly be beneficial for mom and baby during the pregnancy.