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Ice cream linked to pregnancy

health-and-fitness Updated: Feb 28, 2007 18:23 IST

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Here’s good news for women who want to start a family, for a new research has revealed that eating ice cream may help them to conceive, but low-fat dairy foods may increase infertility risk

Drinking whole fat milk and eating ice cream appears to be better for women trying to become pregnant than a diet consisting of low-fat dairy products such as skimmed milk and yoghurt, according to new research published in Europe's leading reproductive medicine journal, Human Reproduction, today (February 28).

Researchers in the United States have found a link between a low-fat dairy diet and increased risk of infertility due to lack of ovulation (anovulatory infertility). Their study showed that if women ate two or more servings of low-fat dairy foods a day, they increased their risk of ovulation-related infertility by more than four fifths (85%) compared to women who ate less than one serving of low-fat dairy food a week. On the other hand, if women ate at least one serving of high-fat dairy food a day, they reduced their risk of anovulatory infertility by more than a quarter (27%) compared to women who consumed one or fewer high-fat dairy serving a week.

Lead author of the study, Dr Jorge Chavarro, who is a research fellow in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA, said that, given the scarcity of information in this area, it was important that more research should be carried out into the association between low-fat dairy foods and anovulatory infertility in order to confirm or refute the findings.

"Clarifying the role of dairy foods intake on fertility is particularly important since the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults consume three or more daily servings of low-fat milk or equivalent dairy products: a strategy that may well be deleterious for women planning to become pregnant as it would give them an 85% higher risk of anovulatory infertility according to our findings."

In the meantime, he said that his advice to women wanting to conceive would be to change their diet. "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 said that it was important that women did this within the constraints of maintaining their normal calorie intake and limiting their overall consumption of saturated fats in order to maintain general good health.

"Once they have become pregnant, then they should probably switch back to low-fat dairy foods as it is easier to limit intake of saturated fat by consuming low-fat dairy foods," he said.

The researchers believe that the presence of a fat-soluble substance, which improves ovarian function, might explain the lower risk of infertility from high-fat dairy foods. "The intake of dairy fat, or a fat-soluble substance present in dairy foods, may partly explain the inverse association between high-fat dairy foods and anovulatory infertility," said Dr Chavarro.

Previous studies had suggested that lactose (a sugar found in milk) might be associated with anovulatory infertility, but Dr Chavarro's study found neither a positive nor negative association for this, and nor was there any association between intake of calcium, phosphorus or vitamin D and anovulatory infertility.

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