Infertility is a complex, devastating, and little understood condition that impacts millions of families. New research suggests that sugar consumption can affect fertility, and it can be important to understand how your diet and lifestyle impact fertility and your chances of conception.
Infertility is a common condition that impacts people who desire to get pregnant but find themselves unable to do so. It impacts both men and women, and it is a multifaceted condition with many different causes and contributing factors. The CDC states that 6% of married women are unable to get pregnant within one year of trying and 12% of women in the US have difficulty getting and staying pregnant. For 35% of couples struggling to conceive, male factor infertility also plays a role in the struggle.
In women, problems can be anatomical (such as blocked fallopian tubes or the shape of the uterus) or can be related to ovulation (or the lack thereof). There are many ways in which these problems can occur, making it difficult to identify and treat the problem. In men, there are many different anatomical, hormonal, and genetic issues that can lead to problems with sperm.
How Does Sugar Impact Infertility?
In addition to many other risk factors, high sugar consumption can negatively impact fertility in both men and women. When you eat sugar and your blood glucose levels are elevated, insulin is released by the pancreas. This insulin flooding your system can interrupt the process of egg maturation by causing the hormones that help the egg to develop to decrease. This stunted hormone production can interfere with ovulation and can even lead to an increase in testosterone levels (which contributes to PCOS).
In men, studies show that high sugar consumption (such as regularly drinking soda) can decrease the chances of conception by up to 33%.
Diets high in sugar are linked with weight gain and obesity, both of which can have negative impacts on fertility. Too much sugar can also have a negative impact on cholesterol levels, which can negatively affect fertility. Sugar also increases inflammation in the body, possibly damaging or blocking the vessels necessary for conception. Added sugars in the diet take the place of foods that contain essential vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other nutrients that are necessary for optimal fertility.
Take Charge of Your Fertility
While many of the factors that lead to or cause infertility are completely uncontrollable, there are steps you can take to give fertility the best possible shot. If you are a woman trying to conceive or think you will want to conceive in the future, consider the following lifestyle changes and interventions:
- Cut out sugar and other inflammatory foods from your diet
- Instead, choose a healthful diet full of essential vitamins and nutrients
- Take a prenatal vitamin, multivitamin, or folic acid supplement
- Make healthy lifestyle choices such as prioritizing exercise, sleep, and stress management
- Track your menstrual cycle and time your ovulation for optimum timing
- If you have concerns about your fertility, see a Reproductive Endocrinologist
For men who want to improve their fertility profile:
- Remove sugar and other inflammatory foods from the diet
- Take a multivitamin and/or CoQ10 supplement
- Avoid sperm-damaging heat (such as hot tubs, saunas, or tight underwear)
- Get enough exercise and sleep, and avoid smoking and overconsumption of alcohol
- If you have concerns about your fertility, consider getting a semen analysis done (often by a urologist) to check your numbers
Infertility can be a frustrating and upsetting condition to deal with, and your sugar consumption may be working against you. By choosing healthier alternatives and living a healthy lifestyle, you can increase your chances of conception and improve your overall health.