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Does weight affect fertility?

Obesity or being underweight is involved in about 12% of female cases of infertility. Women with a BMI (body mass index) higher than 25 are considered overweight, and higher than 30 obese. Infertility risk is 2.7-fold higher in obese women. A similar trend is also observed in thin women. It has been reported that obese women have lower rates of egg collection and conception after any infertility treatment, and exhibit higher rates of initial miscarriage.

Fat cells produce estrogen. In obese women, excessive estrogen is produced in the fat cells, which suppresses the production of ovarian steroids. Therefore excessive estrogen causes a decrease in the possibility of conception, almost as if it were a contraceptive. Conversely, in thin women, estrogen production in fat cells is insufficient, causing irregular menstrual cycles. In any case, inadequate weight can lead to impaired ovulation and irregular sexual menstrual cycles. In men, obesity causes an increase in aromatase activity in fat cells, which takes the testosterone produced by the testicles and turns it into estrogen. This interferes with the production of sperm and sexual function.

Additionally, reducing the consumption of sugar also reduces the amount of estrogen produced by the body. A study done at King’s College, London, found that by reducing dietary sugar by 63%, it lowers estrogen by 25% in 3 weeks.

A study led by Dr Russell, MD, at the Delaware Institute for Reproductive Medicine (DIRM) in Newark, found that a diet rich in proteins appears to have a pronounced positive effect on fertility. Protein is essential for good quality embryos and better egg quality. Dr Russell was surprised to see a large percentage of the women eating more than 60% carbs each day and 10% (or less) protein. These diets were associated with poor quality embryos. Dr Russell now requires patients to eat 25% to 35% protein and 40% or fewer carbs for three months before allowing them to begin their IVF cycles.

What can you do to improve your fertility?

  • Avoid sugar

  • Avoid refined carbohydrates such as white flour products or white rice

  • Increase protein intake (meat, chicken, fish, eggs, nuts)

  • Increase vegetable intake

  • Exercise

By following these simple steps you will automatically reduce your weight and you will stop fuelling the production of estrogen.


Kubo H., Epidemiology of infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss in society with fewer children. JMAJ – Japan Medical Association Journal, 2009 Vol. 52 No. 1 pp. 23-28 Dr Russell, MD, Annual Clinical Meeting of The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists


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