New book offers ideas to boost fertility

The answer to the question,"Can my diet affect my chances of getting pregnant?” has long been a highly qualified"Maybe.” Now with research from the landmark Nurses’ Health Study, the answer is more clearly"Yes.”

Harvard University researchers followed the health and habits of more than 18,000 women for more than eight years. Each woman tried to get pregnant at least once. Several dietary habits strongly increased the chances of having ovulatory infertility—the single leading cause of infertility.

Dietary and other lifestyle habits that promoted fertility include:

n Getting plenty of folic acid and plenty of iron from fruits, vegetables or supplements, but not from red meat.

n Avoiding trans fats found in many commercially baked products and restaurant deep-fried foods.

n Swapping skim milk or other no-fat dairy foods for whole milk or full-fat dairy foods, including ice cream.

n Getting into the fertility zone for weight and physical activity.

The results of this work—the first rigorous investigation of diet and fertility in humans—have been published in various medical journals. To bring the findings together and translate them from medicalese, Harvard researchers Jorge E. Chavarro, M.D., ScD, and Walter C. Willett, M.D., DrPH, teamed up with writer and Chicago native Patrick J. Skerrett to create The Fertility Diet (McGraw-Hill, 2007). It summarizes the research and offers 10 tips for improving fertility, along with meal plans and recipes.

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