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Low-fat dairy food may increase risk of infertility

5 March 2007
Appeared in BioNews 397

New research published in the journal Human Reproduction has found that consuming low-fat dairy food may lead to a higher risk of infertility. The study found no difference between women who ate the most dairy food and those who ate little or none. However, differences in fertility were revealed when the type of dairy food being consumed was considered.

Dr Jorge Chavarro of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston used data from the Nurses Health Study, an ongoing survey of thousands of women who fill out regular questionnaires about their diet, activity and health. Records of 18,555 nurses aged between 24 and 42 who had tried to become pregnant, or had become pregnant between 1991 and 1999 were analysed.

The study found that women who ate two or more servings of low-fat dairy food a day had an 85 per cent higher risk of developing a type of infertility called anovulatory infertility, where the body fails to produce enough egg cells. Women who ate one serving of high-fat dairy food a day were 27 per cent less likely to be infertile than women who avoided full-fat dairy foods.

Dr Chavarro admitted there was a scarcity of information in this area and that more research needed to be carried out into the association between low-fat dairy foods and anovulatory infertility, however, he suggested that women trying to get pregnant should think about their diets. 'They should consider changing low-fat dairy foods for high-fat dairy foods; for instance by swapping skimmed milk for whole milk and eating ice cream, not low fat yoghurt'. However, he also pointed out that benefits could be gained from as little as one serving of high-fat dairy food per day and that it was important for women to maintain their normal calorie intake and limit their overall consumption of saturated fats in order to maintain general good health. But critics have pointed out that women with this type of ovulatory failure make up a relatively small proportion of cases of female infertility. Dr Richard Fleming from the Glasgow Centre for Human Reproduction told the BBC: 'I am not convinced that there is any reason for women who are trying to conceive to alter their diet unless they are obese, and I would not advise any woman to do this'.

Ice cream 'helps increase chance of pregnancy'
The Independent |  28 February 2007
Low-fat dairy food may hurt fertility
Reuters |  28 February 2007
Low-fat dairy infertility warning
BBC News Online |  28 February 2007
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