Low fat dairy products such as skimmed milk and yoghurt may increase infertility risk for women trying to become pregnant.

Researchers in the United States have found a link between a low-fat dairy diet and increased risk of infertility due to lack of ovulation (anovulatory infertility). Their study showed that if women ate two or more servings of low-fat dairy foods a day, they increased their risk of ovulation-related infertility by more than four fifths (85%) compared to women who ate less than one serving of low-fat dairy food a week. On the other hand, if women ate at least one serving of high-fat dairy food a day, they reduced their risk of anovulatory infertility by more than a quarter (27%) compared to women who consumed one or fewer high-fat dairy serving a week.

Lead author of the study, Dr Jorge Chavarro, who is a research fellow in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA, said that, given the scarcity of information in this area, it was important that more research should be carried out into the association between low-fat dairy foods and anovulatory infertility in order to confirm or refute the findings.

“Clarifying the role of dairy foods intake on fertility is particularly important since the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults consume three or more daily servings of low-fat milk or equivalent dairy products: a strategy that may well be deleterious for women planning to become pregnant as it would give them an 85% higher risk of anovulatory infertility according to our findings.”

In the meantime, he said that his advice to women wanting to conceive would be to change their diet. “They should consider changing low-fat dairy foods for high-fat dairy foods; for instance, by swapping skimmed milk for whole milk and eating ice cream, not low fat yoghurt.” However, he said that it was important that women did this within the constraints of maintaining their normal calorie intake and limiting their overall consumption of saturated fats in order to maintain general good health. “Once they have become pregnant, then they should probably switch back to low-fat dairy foods as it is easier to limit intake of saturated fat by consuming low-fat dairy foods,” he said.

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