Harvard researchers have studied results from 18,000 women taking part in the Nurses Health Study, a long term research project looking at the effect of diet and other factors on health. The results showed that 1 in 6 women had some trouble getting pregnant and over ? of these were due to ovulatory infertility – a problem related to the maturation or release of a mature egg each month.

Research from the Nurses Health Study showed that carbohydrate choices influence fertility. Eating a lot of easily digested carbohydrates such as white bread and potatoes, increases the odds that youll find yourself struggling with ovulatory infertility. More than any other nutrient, carbohydrates determine your blood sugar and insulin levels. When these rise too high, they disrupt the finely tuned balance of hormones required for reproduction and this can result in ovulatory dysfunction. Women in the highest glycemic load category were 92% more likely to have ovulatory infertility than women in the lowest category.

Emmas Recommendation
Remove all “white” food from your diet such as white bread, white flour and foods made from white flour, white rice (except Basmati as it has a low GI), potatoes and white pasta. Substitute with brown and wild rice, wholemeal pasta, wholegrain/rye bread and other root vegetables.

Findings from the Nurses Health Study indicate that the artificial fat, transfat, is a powerful deterrent to ovulation and conception. The more transfat in the diet the greater the likelihood of developing ovulatory infertility. This effect is evident from an intake of 4 grams per day (one doughnut) – less than the average American consumes each day!

Emmas Recommendation
Remove all products containing transfat from your diet. They are found in fast food, baked goods and commercially prepared foods. The World Health Organisation recommended in 2003 that transfats be limited to less than 1% of overall energy intake.

The Nurses Health Study revealed that getting more protein from plant sources (beans, legumes, grains, nuts & seeds) and less from animal sources has a large impact on improving ovulatory infertility. Ovulatory infertility was 39% more prevalent in women with the highest intake of animal protein than in women in the lowest. Simply by replacing 25 grams of animal protein with 25 grams of plant protein correlated to a 50% lower risk of ovulatory infertility.

Emmas Recommendation
Eat 100grams of lean red or white meat 1-2 per week. All other protein should be obtained from combining plant sources.

Body Weight
Women with the lowest and highest body mass indexes (BMI) were more likely to have trouble with ovulatory infertility than women in the middle. Infertility was least common among women with a BMI of 20-24, with an ideal of 21. Weighing too much or too little can interrupt normal menstrual cycles, throw off ovulation, cause insulin resistance and an excess of male sex hormones.
In regard to male fertility, studies have concluded that excess weight can lower testosterone levels which disrupt the ratio of testosterone to oestrogen (yes, men produce oestrogen too) resulting in a lower production of sperm cells that are good swimmers.

Emmas Recommendation
Body mass index is defined as the individual’s body weight divided by the square of their height. The formula universally used produces a unit of measure of kg/m2. For example, if you are 160cm tall and weigh 55kg, then your BMI is 21.5 kg/m2

Four types of regular activity are required for optimizing health: aerobic exercise, strength training, stretching as well as the activities of daily living. By combining these they will help control weight, high blood sugar and insulin. For most women, this means getting at least 30 minutes of varied exercise daily.

Emmas Recommendation
Find activities that you actually enjoy – this will increase the likelihood that you will set up a routine that you stick too. Enlist a girlfriend and motivate each other on those cold mornings!