May 27, 2020 | By: Monica Rincon, MSc., NFP Health Professional
If you are thinking about going on the trendy Keto diet because you heard it will improve your fertility, there may be some correlation. Overweight women are more likely to have irregular menstrual cycles, reducing pregnancy rates. Keto diets are based on consumption of a high fat, but very limited carbohydrate diet (only 20 grams daily); this usually results in rapid weight loss but can create cravings and make it difficult to stay on the diet. So, is there any proof of success for this type of fertility diet?
A clinical study was done to test the influence of a ketogenic diet on 4 obese women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) that were seeking fertility treatment. Women with PCOS are often overweight, due to changes in carbohydrate metabolism, especially with sugar and starches.
During the 6-month study, 2 of the women got pregnant. Although results were promising, there was no control group and not enough data to confirm a positive influence. With a study this small, there isn’t enough justifiable evidence to prove that a Keto diet really boosts your fertility potential. Another three studies with obese PCOS women were published by the Journal of Translational Medicine and indicated that a Keto diet promoted weight loss, although more research is needed in order to determine effects on fertility.
Furthermore, it was recently concluded that ketogenic diets can harm blood vessels, similar to damage caused by high-sugar diets. With only a few studies being done and with a very small sample size, there isn’t enough justifiable evidence to prove that a Keto diet really boosts your fertility potential.
What are the alternatives?
A healthy, balanced diet is a sensible approach for boosting fertility. For overweight and obese women, a low-carbohydrate diet (45 grams daily) helped them to lose weight, increase their health and improve their fertility. Dr. Chavarro from the University of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School has studied foods that enhance fertility in both men and women. From these studies, a “fertility diet” was developed, providing couples a diet and lifestyle plan that is natural and healthy, promotes well-being and a healthy weight, improves fertility and is safe during pregnancy and beyond.
Key aspects of the fertility diet are:
- Folic acid supplementation before and during pregnancy
- A few options are: Sun exposure (not edible, but good source), egg yolks, mushrooms
Carbohydrates with low glycemic index and whole grains
- Brown rice, steel-cut oats, pasta, leafy greens, bran flakes
Olive oils and lower trans fatty acid intakes
- Avoid processed, fried, and baked goods
- Fish, fruits, and vegetables
The first step is to always sit down and make a plan. If you very interested in wanting to lose weight to help your overall health and fertility, it’s recommended that you schedule some time with a Fertility Nutritionist. Along with starting your diet, you should coincidingly be keeping track of your menstrual cycle. As your daily routine begins to change, your body is the best indicator of how your health is doing. Track your period, use ovulation tests to track your hormone levels, and log your symptoms into Premom. The easiest way to get pregnant naturally and quickly is to know your body and plan accordingly!
Monica Rincon is a certified Marquette Method Natural Family Planning (NFP) Teacher / fertility awareness educator and a medical microbiologist.
- McGrice M, Porter J. The effect of low carbohydrate diets on fertility hormones and outcomes in overweight and obese women: A systematic review. Nutrients. 2017;9(3).
- Alwahab UA, Pantalone KM, Burguera B. A ketogenic diet may restore fertility in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: A case series. AACE Clinical Case Reports. 2018;4(5):e427-e31.
- Paoli A, Mancin L, Giacona MC, Bianco A, Caprio M. Effects of a ketogenic diet in overweight women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Journal of Translational Medicine. 2020;18(1).
- Mavropoulos JC, Yancy WS, Hepburn J, Westman EC. The effects of a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet on the polycystic ovary syndrome: A pilot study. Nutrition and Metabolism. 2005;2.
- Burkitt MJ. An overlooked danger of ketogenic diets: Making the case that ketone bodies induce vascular damage by the same mechanisms as glucose. Nutrition. 2020;75-76.
- Gaskins AJ, Chavarro JE. Diet and fertility: a review. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 2018;218(4):379-89.
Updated August 24, 2020