Micronutrients and Fertility
How do individual nutrients play a role in fertility?
Do you notice when dietitians give nutrition recommendations the word VARIETY comes up quite a bit? You will hear suggestions to eat a VARIETY of fruits and vegetables or a VARIETY of protein sources.
Want to know why the word variety is important? Because there is no one food that is a perfect food for fertility. There is also no nutrient that is a perfect nutrient for fertility. You need to eat a variety of foods to get in ALL of the nutrients that may play a role in fertility support.
I came across a VERY lengthy but very well-researched article that was published this year and focuses on how certain micronutrients may play a role in fertility. I am doing yall a solid and summarizing it because the original is VERY wordy….here I go… (note: the content of this post is all taken from the study linked above. All of the credit for the organization of the research and most interpretation goes to the author of the article. I’m just cutting it down so it is easy to digest)
Fertility rates are declining (as we already know). Micronurients may play a role in fertility. Micronutrients are nutrients that we ingest in a small amount that is necessary for certain fucntions in the body. Examples of micronutrients are vitamins and minerals. Carbohydrates, fats, and proteins are NOT micronutrients, they are MACROnutrients.
Let’s break down the specific micronutrients that the authors discuss and how each nutrient may play a role in female fertility:
· folate levels are important for egg quality, maturation, fertilization, and implantation.
· zinc has been shown to play a role in ovulation and the menstrual cycle.
· sufficient vitamin A levels are a factor in egg quality and embryo development.
· certain B vitamins play a role in DNA synthesis.
· folate and zinc play a role in apoptosis (ie, normal cell death), which is important for regulation of follicle atresia, degeneration of the corpus luteum, and endometrial shedding. (want to learn more about folate vs. folic acid? Check it out here.)
· selenium plays a role in the luteal phase. The risk of luteal phase deficiency, where inadequate progesterone secretion makes the endometrium less receptive to implantation, may be increased in women with inadequate selenium levels.
· Vitamin D receptors are distributed throughout reproductive tissues, and vitamin D has an important role in fertility.
· Antioxidants play a role in combating oxidative stress. Oxidative stress occurs when the balance between pro-oxidant molecules such as reactive oxygen species (ROS) and the body’s antioxidant defense mechanism is upset, is also known to impair fertility.Although ROS are necessary for normal cell functions, excessive ROS production (which can occur with smoking, alcohol use, extremes of body weight, exposure to environmental toxins, advanced maternal age) can impair physiological female reactions such as egg maturation.
· Antioxidants such as vitamins C, E, and A help defend against oxidative stress.
The authors go on to note that it seems that women who struggle to conceive do have lower than recommended levels of certain micronutrients. Makes sense after seeing how individual nutrients can play such a role in fertility.
· insufficient vitamin B12 levels have been reported in more than half of infertile women.2
· Other studies have also found associations between vitamin B12 deficiency and female subfertility.
· Women who are infertile appear to have lower vitamin B6 levels than fertile women.
· Women may be less likely to conceive if their vitamin D intake is below recommended levels, or if serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels are at risk for inadequacy or deficiency.
· In industrialized countries, a proportion of women of childbearing age in general have lower than currently recommended levels of micronutrients (especially folate, vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, iodine, iron, and selenium).
RESTORING NUTRIENTS FOR FERTILITY
It seems reasonable to assume that restoring micronutrients to recommended levels may have a positive impact on fertility In women with fertility problems, a healthy balanced diet during preconception improved fertility and was associated with a greater probability of pregnancy. Improvements in the preconception diet is also associated with increased chances of an ongoing pregnancy in these women. A healthy diet positively correlates with red blood cell (RBC) folate levels, and higher serum folate levels appear to be beneficial for fertilization and for mature egg counts in women undergoing infertility treatment.
Micronutrients have essential roles in fertility, and inadequate levels may have a negative impact on the ability to conceive. It has been reported that a proportion of women of childbearing age in general, as well as those who struggle to conceive, have lower than recommended levels of certain micronutrients.
So what does this mean to you if you are trying to conceive? Nutrition matters, and a restrictive diet may not be your best-bet. Eating a variety of foods that are loaded with vitamins and minerals will not go against your goals. Good and nutritious food should be your medicine along with your high-quality prenatal vitamin (please don’t take cheap drug-store brand prenatals. Quality and ingredients do matter IMO). And speaking with a dietitian to ensure you don’t have any gaps in your intake is always a good idea if I do say so myself! Those crazy fertility miracle pills with a bunch of herbs will likely not be as effective as eating a balanced diet to help make sure you are getting all of the vitamins and minerals that your body needs.
As always, let me know if you need help with your diet or guidance on specific nutrients. And if you are still taking drug-store brand vitamins or vitamins made with fillers and synthetic folic acid, please shoot me an email NutritionNowCounseling@gmail.com or go to my contact page.