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Diet, Lifestyle Changes Cut Some Infertility Risk

Food, exercise choices may lower risk by almost 80% for those with ovulatory disorders, study suggests

FRIDAY, Nov. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Women who followed at least five certain lifestyle and diet behaviors were about 80 percent less likely to have infertility from ovulatory disorders than women who followed none of the behaviors, a Harvard study concludes.

The analysis of 17,544 married women participating in the ongoing Nurses' Health Study II found those with the highest fertility scores: ate less trans fat and sugar from carbohydrates; consumed more protein from vegetables than from animals; ate more fiber and iron; took more multivitamins; had a lower body mass index (BMI); exercised for longer periods of time each day; and consumed more high-fat diary products and less low-fat diary products.

The relationship between these behaviors and reduced risk of infertility was similar for women regardless of age and whether they'd been pregnant in the past, said the Harvard School of Public Health authors of the study, which was published in the Nov. 1 issue of the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.

"We analyzed what happens if you follow one, two, three, four, or more different factors. What we found was that, as women started following more of these recommendations, their risk of infertility dropped substantially for every one of the dietary and lifestyle strategies undertaken. In fact, we found a sixfold difference in ovulatory infertility risk between women following five or more low-risk dietary and lifestyle habits and those following none," lead author Jorge Chavarro, a research fellow in the school's department of nutrition, said in a prepared statement.

"The key message of this paper is that making the right dietary choices and including the right amount of physical activity in your daily life may make a large difference in your probability of becoming fertile if you are experiencing problems with ovulation," senior author Walter Willett, chair of the department of nutrition, added.

According to the researchers, infertility affects one in six couples, in the U.S. and Europe and ovulatory problems have been identified in up to 30 percent of those cases.

More information

The U.S. National Women's Health Information Center has more about infertility.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Harvard School of Public Health, news release, Nov. 1, 2007

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