Topic summary contributed by volunteer(s): Lindey

Infertility and Animal Protein

Meat intake is associated with infertility. Eating a single serving of any meat per day has been associated with a 30 percent greater risk of interference with ovulation. Red meat increases infertility risk 40 percent; however, eating one serving of chicken a day (half a chicken breast) may increase women’s infertility risk more than 50 percent—worse than bacon and hot dogs. Replacing animal sources of protein with vegetable sources of protein—like beans—may reduce infertility risk that is due to failure to ovulate. 

Pregnant women may want to stay away from all meat because it is so packed with sex steroid hormones that eating meat could affect the development of their sons’ genitals while in the womb, with the possibility of adversely affecting their sons’ future fertility. Animal protein intake increases the levels of a growth hormone called IGF-1, which has been linked not only to infertility but to cancer.

Female Infertility and Soda

Soft drinks have been associated with infertility in women, though this may be from an indirect route, with soda linked to obesity and obesity linked to reduced fertilization rates.

Female Infertility and Endometriosis

About one in a dozen women suffer from endometriosis, which accounts for about half of the cases of infertility, but soy food consumption may reduce the risk of endometriosis.

Male Infertility and Diet

Infertility affects 10 to 15 percent of couples attempting to conceive, and in about half the cases, a problem is found in the man. Increasing saturated fat intake just 5 percent was associated with a 38 percent lower sperm count, and the higher the saturated fat intake, the lower the sperm count—up to a 65 percent reduction in total sperm count. But male fertility is not just about sperm count, but about how well the sperm work. Manmade endocrine-disrupting industrial pollutants that build up in animal fat, particularly fish, may be partially responsible for a decline in semen quality. High dietary intake of saturated fat–laden foods like meat products and milk may negatively affect semen quality in humans, while some fruits and vegetables may maintain or improve semen quality because of their antioxidants and nutrient content.

For substantiation of any statements of fact from the peer-reviewed medical literature, please see the associated videos below.

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