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The best conceivable diet
Infertility affects one in six couples, according to studies in the US and Europe. There are various reasons – there may be a structural problem like blocked fallopian tubes, or a disease of the uterus like fibroids or endometriosis. Many cases (18–30 per cent), though, are due to a failure of ovulation – eggs just don’t ripen and release when they’re supposed to. IVF is an option, but it’s time consuming, expensive and has a high failure rate. There may be a simpler solution according to a paper published in Obstetrics & Gynecology – follow a ‘fertility diet’ aimed at increasing certain micronutrients and improving insulin sensitivity through diet, weight control and increased physical activity.


Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School followed a group of 17,544 married women (participants in the Nurses’ Health Study II) for eight years as they tried to become pregnant or became pregnant. The team put together a ‘fertility diet’ score card based on:

  • The ratio of mono-unsaturated to trans fats in diet
  • Protein consumption (derived from animals or vegetables)
  • Carbohydrate consumption (including fibre intake and GI)
  • Dairy consumption (low- and high-fat dairy)
  • Iron consumption
  • Multivitamin use
  • Body mass index (BMI)
  • Physical activity

‘We analyzed what happens if you follow one, two, three, four, or more different factors,’ said Lead author Dr Jorge Chavarro. ‘What we found was that, as women started following more of these recommendations, their risk of infertility dropped substantially for every one of the dietary and lifestyle strategies undertaken. In fact, we found a six-fold difference in ovulatory infertility risk between women following five or more low-risk dietary and lifestyle habits and those following none.’ The women with the lowest rate of infertility (and most likely to fall pregnant) were those who ate less trans fat, less sugar, more low GI foods such as pasta and whole grains, more protein from vegetables than from animals, had a good iron intake, took multivitamins, exercised daily, kept their BMI between 20 and 25, and consumed more high-fat dairy products and less low-fat dairy products.

‘The key message of this paper is that making the right dietary choices and including the right amount of physical activity in your daily life may make a large difference in your probability of becoming fertile if you are experiencing problems with ovulation,’ said senior author Dr Walter Willett. Click HERE to watch a short video of Drs. Willett and Chavarro explaining the paper’s key findings.
Obstetrics & Gynecology, November 1, 2007

You are what your mother eats
‘Babies are born with a dislike for bitter tastes. If mothers want their babies to learn to like to eat vegetables, especially green vegetables, they need to provide them with opportunities to taste these foods,’ said senior author Julie Mennella from the Monell Chemical Senses Center in a study published in Pediatrics. Mennella and Catherine Forestell recruited 45 four- to eight-month-old infants (44% were breastfed) and randomly assigned them to one of two treatment groups – the first was fed green beans, and the second fed green beans and then peaches at the same time of day for eight days.

Breastfed babies showed a greater liking for peaches (as did their mothers who ate more fruits in general than the mothers who were bottle feeding suggesting that the enhanced peach acceptance of their babies might be attributed to increased exposure to fruit flavours through breast milk. ‘It’s a beautiful system,’ said Mennella. ‘Flavours from the mother’s diet are transmitted through amniotic fluid and mother’s milk. So, a baby learns to like a food’s taste when the mother eats that food on a regular basis.’

Although the bottle feeding Mums ate more green beans, there was no difference in their babies’ acceptance of this veggie. What made the difference was offering them regularly. Being offered green beans for eight days led to an enhanced acceptance of the vegetable, increasing intake by almost three-fold, with or without peaches. ‘Breastfeeding confers an advantage in initial acceptance of a food, but only if mothers eat the food regularly,” wrote Forestell and Mennella. ‘Once weaned, infants who receive repeated dietary exposure to a food eat more of it and may learn to like its flavour. However, because infants innately display facial expressions of distaste in response to certain flavours, caregivers may hesitate to continue offering these foods.’
Pediatrics, December 2007, Volume 120, Number 6

Which diet for diabetes? ADA or low GI?

“A low GI diet is a viable alternative to the ADA (American Diabetes Association) diet” according to a report in the latest issue of Nutrition. Forty people with poorly controlled diabetes were randomly allocated to an “ADA” or “low-GI” diet and given eight educational sessions over the 12-month clinical trial. The researchers from the University of Massachusetts Medical School found that both groups achieved similar improvements in HDL “good” cholesterol, triacylglycerols, weight loss and reductions in HbA1c at six and twelve months, but the people following a low-GI diet did so using less diabetic medication.
Nutrition 2008 Jan;24(1):45-56

GI Group: If you want to know more about using a low GI diet to help manage diabetes, check out a copy of The New Glucose Revolution for Diabetes in the US; The Diabetes and Pre-diabetes Handbook in Australia.


Stubbing out a smoking myth
Like being overweight, smoking is a risk factor for insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease and cancer. It also increases the risk of the complications of diabetes. In fact, ‘smoking reduces the body’s ability to use insulin by 15 per cent’ says Alan Barclay, co –author of The New Glucose Diabetes Revolution (The Diabetes and Pre-diabetes Handbook in Australia) ‘Once you stop smoking, the insulin resistance does not start to improve until 10 or 12 hours later.’ Despite knowing the health risks, many smokers are reluctant to quit in case they put on weight. And gaining weight after quitting is one of the main reasons men and women start smoking again.

Researchers from the University of New South Wales and the University of Melbourne seem to have stubbed out the ‘smoking keeps you slim’ myth according to new research published online in the American Journal of Physiology: Endocrinology and Metabolism. The researchers studied mice for over seven weeks. They exposed half of the rodents to smoke from four cigarettes a day for six days a week, while the other half were ‘non smokers’. While the mice who were ‘smokers’ ate about 23 per cent less than the non smokers, their fat levels and hyperglycemia remained pretty much the same. One of the authors, Professor Margaret Morris, says the study shows that while smoking reduces appetite this is different from saying that cigarettes help to keep the body slim. ‘If the findings can be applied to humans, and that’s the first caveat, then this is very important research that shows that using smoking to suppress body weight gain is not going to be helpful. Any perceived loss of weight associated with smoking is most likely due to loss of lean body mass (muscle and internal organs) rather than loss of body fat.’ This is in line with Glasgow University researchers who studied the smoking habits of more than 1000 women aged 16–24, and found they were more likely to put on weight and develop a flabby midriff if they started smoking.


New Year’s Resolution: Quit smoking. And when you first quit, check your blood glucose levels more frequently as your insulin requirements if you are on diabetes medications or insulin may drop by up to 30 per cent.
American Journal of Physiology: Endocrinology and Metabolism

Below the belt
Recent research has shown that there is DNA damage in the sperm of men with type 2 diabetes, which could be a sign of reduced fertility. The chances of erectile dysfunction are also increased with increasing waist size while testosterone levels go down as the belly goes up. There is some good news. An extra 30 minutes of walking a day can lead to a 40 per cent reduction in erectile dysfunction and help restore sexual function.
Journal of Human Reproduction, May 3, 2007


What’s new? Editor’s pick
Childhood diabetes blog

Here’s a new blog where you can share your childhood diabetes story and read about others’ experiences.The blog is anonymous and easy to use.

The Sneaky Chef
Simple strategies for hiding healthy foods in kids’ favorite meals. Well it’s not new, but it’s new to us. Missy Chase Lapine has some great strategies for getting veggies into kids. And that includes legumes. Some parents have kids that sleep through the night and eat their greens. The rest of us don’t. This one is for the rest of us with lots of low GI ingredients and great recipes, too. It’s clear she’s put a lot of thought into this book. All we would add is don’t give up on trying the real stuff instead of the sneaky stuff. In the end you can’t pretend forever. It’s important to offer kids lots and lots of opportunities to try new foods and to let them help you cook the dinner. If they have cooked it, they are much more likely to eat it.

Missy Chase Lapine

Greenpages 2008
There’s a great story in Greenpages 2008 (Australia) on ‘Fuelling the Menu’. It’s about Melbourne’s 100 Mile Cafe inspired by Canada’s 100 Mile Diet. What’s interesting, is that when you eat from your own backyard, it’s less processed and is way down at the low GI end of the scale. For more information go to: