There's no doubt that low-carb diets are the latest trend for people trying to lose weight. But could using a low-carb diet for fertility be beneficial? Patients who wish to improve their chances of becoming pregnant are often willing to try any number of approaches to encourage conception, including implementing a fertility diet. While some tests can help identify any reproductive concerns, it's important for physicians to understand how certain foods and nutrients might influence fertility and to stay updated on the latest information about diet trends. Here's what you should know about low-carb diets and their effects on fertility.
The Latest on Low-Carb Diets
In general, low-carb diets limit the consumption of carbohydrates and encourage the consumption of protein and fat. Although some people use such diets to help manage type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome, most people follow low-carb diets to lose weight. Carbohydrates provide fuel for the body, which breaks them down into simple sugars. Complex carbs, such as whole grains and beans, are digested more slowly and have less of an effect on blood sugar than refined carbs, such as white flour, sugar and foods made from them.
Because the body converts extra glucose to fat, it stands to reason that restricting carbs might help someone lose weight. Avoiding carbs over time can cause you to burn fat for energy, triggering weight loss. Low-carb diets vary in their strictness; current popular versions include the Paleo diet and the Keto diet, while older variations include the Atkins diet and the Sugar Busters diet.
How Does a Low Carb Diet Effect Fertility?
Following a low-carb diet for fertility is based on the concept that high carb (particularly refined carbs) consumption may have a negative effect on one's ability to conceive. A high-carb diet can also lead to obesity, which is similarly associated with fertility problems.
Evidence to support using a fertility diet that is low in carbohydrates to improve fertility comes from studies that have found improvements in levels of reproductive hormones in women who follow such diets. For example, one recent analysis of 14 randomized controlled trials found that women who consumed less calories and refined carbs were more likely than control interventions to result in pregnancy, as well as in weight loss and improvements in ovulation.
Although it's too soon to say how or if specific fertility diets, specifically low-carb diets, are effective for fertility, it may be worth discussing dietary changes with patients, particularly those who are overweight or obese.