Saturday, November 7, 2009

Low Fat Milk and Infertility

I've been thinking about this post for the last few day, because I think it could be important for some couples who are dealing with infertility. Here's why it's been on my mind, although I should start by saying that it could all be a coincidence in our case (there were other factors in our case, like breastfeeding that could have delayed things). But since we just don't know...

Half a year ago, Paul and I decided it would be nice if, God willing, Sadie had a little brother or sister. We stopped trying to avoid and waited for a plus sign (or two little lines!). Nothing happened. Since I was still charting I had a pretty good idea of what was going on with my body, but still no little brother or sister in sight.

A couple of months ago a news program I had watched when I was pregnant with Sadie popped into my head. It was about fertility and diet and I remembered the reporter saying that studies had found that infertility had been directly linked to a diet full of low fat dairy products. It said that women who drank low or non-fat milk daily were significantly more likely to struggle with infertility.

So I started drinking Sadie's whole milk and cut out the non-fat stuff completely. The next cycle, we conceived.

I really don't know if it had anything to do with my nightly glass of milk, but I think that it's something that couples who are trying to conceive should definitely know about! Here's one of the articles I found:


But it's not only men who are at risk from the hazards of low-fat milk, and the problem isn't just cancer. Harvard scientists recently confirmed a link between low-fat dairy in the diet and an increased risk of infertility due to lack of egg release-also known as 'anovulatory infertility'.

This study monitored 18,555 American women aged 24 to 42, without a history of infertility, who were trying to become pregnant or had become pregnant between 1991 and 1999. It showed that women who ate two or more servings of low-fat dairy foods a day, such as skimmed milk or yoghurt, increased their risk of anovulatory infertility by more than 85 per cent compared with women who ate less than one serving of low-fat dairy a week.

Of the low-fat dairy foods, women who consumed one or more servings per week of skimmed or low-fat milk had a significantly higher risk of anovulatory infertility compared with those having less than one serving per week.

In contrast, adding a daily serving of whole milk reduced the risk of infertility by more than 50 per cent. Other high-fat dairy products, such as ice cream, were also associated with a lower risk.

Previous research has suggested that lactose, the sugar found in milk, might be involved in anovulatory infertility, but the present study found no such connection. Instead, the researchers believe that the presence of a fat-soluble substance, which improves ovarian function, might explain the lower risk of infertility from high-fat dairy foods. As with the prostate-cancer studies, there appears to be a substance vital for healthy ovaries that requires the presence of fat for it to be properly absorbed (Hum Reprod, 2007 Feb 28; Epub ahead of print).

This may also explain why studies that have looked at dairy intake and rates of ovarian cancer have found that only low-fat milk and skimmed milk, but not whole milk, were associated with an increased cancer risk. In the Brigham and Women's Hospital Nurses' Health Study, based on more than 80,000 women, those who consumed one or more servings of skimmed or low-fat milk daily had a 32-per-cent higher risk of any type of ovarian cancer-and a 69-per-cent higher risk of serous ovarian cancer, the most widespread form-compared with women who had three or fewer servings a month. Whole milk, on the other hand, had no such effect (Int J Cancer, 2004; 110: 271-7).

Similarly, the Iowa Women's Health Study found that skimmed milk-but not whole milk-was significantly associated with an increased risk of cancer of the ovaries (Am J Epidemiol, 1999; 149: 21-31).
Full Article Here.

Men might want to check out the link too because it shows a connection between prostate cancer and low fat dairy! It's definitely an interesting read.


  1. It's an interesting theory, but I don't think it applies to me. I've always drank 1 percent and have never had any trouble conceiving.

  2. I wish my husband's infertility could be solved by drinking whole milk! :) His grandmother took medicine (DES) to help avoid miscarriage and now him and several siblings and aunts have had reproductive problems. We knew about it before we got married, and I always wanted to adopt, so it has worked out for us. Still, it has not been easy as both of us came from large families and want to have a lot of children. Nevertheless, God is good and his mercy is much greater than any hardship. I am so grateful everyday for the gift of my little girl that we adopted and hope we can adopt many more.

  3. I actually had heard this too... we only do whole milk to begin with.. but some of the other milk products are hard to get whole (certain cheeses and yogurt). Is hard to avoid. We haven't had any probs either though, so... who knows.

    Another thing I think is interesting is the whole soy issue... My cousin was reading about soy formula (her best friend wanted to put her daughter on it) and found out that using it full time equals giving your baby 5 birth control pills a day worht of estrogen! Supposedly its causing some infertility problems later on too... makes ya wonder about the amount of soy we eat too... Personally we dont drink soy milk or anything, but its still in our butter (that I put on everything) and of course soy sauce and the few times we do eat tofu. Not gonna cut it out completely but would like to cut it down a little further.

  4. Hi Dixie Eagle-
    It definitely doesn't apply to everyone (if it did can you imagine how many girls would be buying that stuff in high school and carrying it around drinking it!). In fact I drank non-fat when I conceived Sadie, just because that's what we always had in the house and it was what I was used to. I didn't think of the report until this next time around, and I'm still not sure if it had anything to do with our case. I can't imagine how upset I'd be if I'd been trying for years and it was something as simple as milk!

  5. Hi Maria-
    I wish it could too! Side effects from medications like that are so scary! I know my mom was on one of the medications that was later found to cause birth defects (because she was hospitalized with morning sickness) and it was recalled a week after I was born. She said she couldn't imagine how terrified she would have been if the warning had come out before she'd safely delivered.

    I'm so glad you two were able to adopt your beautiful little girl! Prayers that you'll be able to adopt (and maybe through God's miraculous work have) as many children as He wills! You are an amazing mom!

  6. Hi Mama Kalila-
    It is so hard to find yogurts with fat sometimes! And it never seems to be ones that are on sale! It drives me crazy.

    I've switched back and forth over the years. When I played rugby in college I drank whole, but I switched back when we moved near my family and ate with them a lot, because they drink non-fat and we have lots of meals together. Lately I've made the change back and now, after reading about the link to prostate cancer, I want to get Paul drinking the full fat stuff too.

    I've heard more and more bad things about soy lately too. We don't drink soy milk, but I'm sure we still eat quite a bit in other foods (like butter!).

    I just hope I can motivate myself to have a garden this year and grow some foods, even though I'll be enormously pregnant when it's time to plant! It's nice to know what's in at least some of what we're eating!

  7. This is quite eye-opening! I'll pass the info on to my daughters, as I'm way past the age where I'd have to worry about infertility. However, non-fat milk has been a way of life for us for decades, due to cardiovascular concerns. It's so ingrained that I feel as if I'm committing mortal sin if I have anything but skim milk!!! The ovarian cancer link is downright scary.

  8. FWIW if you dig even deeper.....skim milk is fed to pigs on hog farms to make them gain weight. There is a good reason for that.....we need fat to metabolize food! Milk with no fat is just a bunch of carbs, which raise insulin levels and make you store your food as fat. Fat in whole milk lowers the GI of the milk and makes it so we can utilize the nutrients.

    Fat is so important, and soy is SO bad.

    Ladies, why not use real butter instead of the spreads with spy and canola and all those polyunsaturated oils (which go rancid VERY quickly, likely by the time they reach the store). Knowing that the good sat fats in whole milk are good for you, the ones in butter are the same.

    Have you read Know Your Fats by Sally Fallon? A must read.

    no one has gotten any thinner, or healthier on low fat anything.

    As for yogurt, if you have a gallon of whole milk and some store bought yogurt (good quality stuff, like stonyfield, brown cow, or mountain high) you can make a whole gallon of yogurt very inexpensively.


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