How Dairy Affects Fertility
Our lifestyle plays a major role in determining hormone balance and fertility outcomes. How well we eat, physical activity and how we manage our mental/emotional health all play a huge role. When it comes to the foods we should and shouldn’t eat for ovulation and hormone balance, there is a TON of information out there, it could be daunting. Dairy is one of those food categories that there is debate over whether it is a disadvantage or advantage to ovulation. Let’s talk about how dairy affects fertility.
The fact is dairy intake may affect ovulation but the results are inconsistent BUT you should avoid low-fat or non-fat dairy products when trying to conceive and here is why.
Low-fat vs. High-fat dairy
Some studies suggest that a high intake of low-fat dairy foods may increase the risk of anovulatory infertility while the intake of high-fat dairy foods may decrease the risk of anovulatory infertility. Full-fat dairy reduced the risk of ovulatory infertility by 50% whereas low-fat milk increased risk by 11%. The suggested reason behind this was that high-fat milk produced more estrogens and contributed to lower increases in IGF1 compared with low-fat products.
A US study found that consuming low-fat dairy products, like skim milk, may affect ovulation and women’s fertility. This study found that drinking two portions or more of low-fat dairy products was 85% more likely to struggle with infertility due to ovulatory issues than those who only ate low-fat dairy foods once a week or less. They also found that those who ate high-fat dairy products once a day or more reduced the risk of infertility by 25%.
However, despite these findings, there is currently no scientific evidence to suggest that including dairy may have a detrimental effect on fertility.
How Dairy Affects Women’s Hormones
Full-fat dairy naturally contains estrogen and progesterone from the cow. When low-fat, skim, or non-fat milk is made, estrogen and progesterone bind to fat and are removed leaving predominately androgenic hormones like testosterone and others behind in the milk during the skimming process. This can disrupt ovulation.
It is likely that you have come across suggestions to ditch dairy products altogether but that is impossible to conclude without the research to back it up. There are two valid reasons why some may choose to drop dairy while trying to conceive:
Nutritional Benefits of Dairy
While calcium needs actually don’t increase during and before pregnancy, you need to meet your daily requirements of 1,000 mg (whether you’re trying to conceive or not!) (NIH, 2022). Dairy products boast an impressive nutritional profile. It contains vitamins B2 and B12, vitamins A and D as well as calcium, iodine, magnesium, zinc and selenium. All of these are an important part of a fertility-promoting diet. It is also an excellent source of high-quality protein.
The Best Dairy Products to Consume for Fertility: Full-Fat Products
- Whole milk yogurt
- 4% cottage cheese
The Best Dairy-Free Products to Consume for Fertility
- Milk Substitutes- almond milk, coconut milk, oat milk, flax milk
- Plant-based yogurts- almond, oat, cashew, soy
- Butter Substitutes- olive oil, avocado oil
- Cream Substitutes- coconut milk
At present there is no scientific evidence to suggest that including dairy may have a detrimental effect on fertility. If you have further concerns or questions, we recommend seeking the advice of a Specialist Fertility Dietitian or Nutritionist. They will also be able to advise you on optimizing your overall dietary pattern for fertility.