A diet high in added sugars has been shown to cause harm to our health, but how does it affect fertility specifically? Will giving up sugar help fertility?
A recent study looking at two groups trying to conceive, one in the US and one in Denmark found that intake of added sugars was associated with decreased fertility. In both groups, consuming ≥72 grams of sugar per day rather than ≤27 grams of sugar per day, decreased fertility by about 13%!
The BioCycle study supported these findings. They found that women with above-average consumption of added sugar (73.2 grams of sugar per day) had higher oestrogen levels and an increased risk of anovulation.
Studies looking at the relationship between soft drink intake and fertility further support the idea that sugar harms fertility. (You can read more about soft drinks and fertility here.)
It seems sugar affects our fertility in two main ways.
Firstly, high sugar intake impacts our blood sugar levels and over time high blood sugars can lead to insulin resistance. (You can read more about blood sugar and fertility here.) But briefly, insulin resistance lead to high levels of insulin in the blood. This can interfere with our reproductive hormones and mess up ovulation. It also causes oxidative stress that harms our eggs and early embryos.
Secondly, high sugar intake itself also seems to directly impact on egg health.
A recent study in primates showed us that even a relatively low dose of sugar over a 6-month period was harmful for oocytes, which had follow on effects to the early embryo. The authors suggest that the sugar leads to epigenetic modifications of the immature eggs. It’s very likely sugar has the same impact on our egg health too.
If you’re consuming a lot of excess sugar, especially from soft drinks, candies and the like, then yes, probably. You don’t need to exclude sugar completely, but reducing your sugar intake is likely to have an impact on your fertility.
Cutting down on sugar isn’t always easy to do. If you’re struggling, talk to your prenatal dietitian for tips and tricks to make it a bit more manageable.
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I help people trying to conceive to ovulate, so they can get pregnant faster.
Tweaking your diet *before* you get pregnant not only improves your cycles and fertility, it also ensures that you have the healthiest pregnancy possible.