Most of us are aware that too much sugar is bad for us, but did you know that sugar can reduce fertility?
Usually we associated excess sugar consumption with health issues such as diabetes, tooth decay and obesity.
However, the health effects of sugar are much further reaching.
The relationship between sugar and fertility is now in the spotlight as more evidence suggests that too much sugar can reduce male and female fertility.
Do you know how much sugar you consume on a daily basis? Most of eat much more sugar than we realise.
Although natural sugars in fruits and vegetables are generally healthy, it’s the refined sugars that we need to be concerned about. Just about every type of processed food contains refined sugar. Everything from white bread through to white rice is sugar enriched.
If you can make healthier food choices, all aspects of your health will be enhanced, including fertility.
Why Sugar and Fertility Don’t Mix
Sugar has multiple effects on the body and can influence fertility in many ways.
Sugar can directly and indirectly affect fertility by altering hormones, immunity, insulin resistance, and increasing nutritional demands.
Changing hormone levels
The body breaks down sugar-rich foods quickly and this raises blood glucose levels. This rapid insulin spike leads to a ‘sugar high’ that can last for up to half-an-hour.
This ‘high’ is followed by a ‘low, as sugar levels rapidly fall. This leaves the body craving more sugar to regain energy.
This vicious circle results in a ‘flight or fight’ reaction as the adrenal glands are over stimulated. The hormones cortisol and adrenalin are released once glucose levels drop in an attempt to elevate sugar levels.
If excess sugar is consumed regularly, adrenal gland function is compromised through repeated stimulation. As the glands fail to function properly, hormone imbalances develop.
[su_spoiler title=”♀ ♂” icon=”arrow-circle-2″] So how does this compromise fertility? When the endocrine system is compromised the glands responsible for secreting reproductive hormones don’t work effectively. This means that there are insufficient levels of estrogens, progesterone, testosterone and other key hormones. As a result, fertility is compromised. [/su_spoiler]
Reduced Immune Function
Most people don’t realise that every time you consume one tablespoon of sugar, you can lower your immune function for anywhere up to four hours. The more sugar you consume, the less effective your immune system becomes.
Autoimmune diseases and other immune system disorders can compromise fertility. This means that your sugar intake can indirectly lower fertility by reducing immune function and increasing susceptibility to illness.
[su_spoiler title=”♀” icon=”arrow-circle-2″] Women with compromised immune health are more susceptible to yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis. These infections can lead to other health complications such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which make conception difficult. [/su_spoiler]
[su_spoiler title=”♂” icon=”arrow-circle-2″] Men affected by illness, even short-term, can experience reduced fertility. As it takes 3 months for sperm to reach maturity, a compromised immune system can make sperm more susceptible to damage. This may lower fertility.[/su_spoiler]
For the body to transform blood sugar into energy, insulin must be secreted from the pancreas. If you eat excess sugary food, the pancreas is forced to make more insulin than normally necessary and this can cause a resistance to insulin. This makes the body more susceptible to weight gain and developing diabetes, among other serious health concerns. Fertility is also negatively affected.
[su_spoiler title=”♀” icon=”arrow-circle-2″] There has been a lot of research into the affects of insulin resistance on female fertility. Many studies have shown that insulin resistance is one of the leading causes of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), significantly increasing the risk of miscarriage“Fica, S. et.al. (2008) Insulin resistance and fertility in polycystic ovary syndrome, Journal of Medicine and Life, Volume 1, Issue 4, (pp.415-22).”. Insulin resistance can stop the body from ovulating, disrupt the maturation process, and reduce the ability of the egg to effectively implant after conception. [/su_spoiler]
[su_spoiler title=”♂” icon=”arrow-circle-2″] Men suffering from insulin resistance diabetes have been shown to have lower fertility levels compared with healthy men“Mallidis, C. et.al. (2011) The influence of diabetes mellitus on malereproductive function: a poorly investigated aspect of male infertility, Urologe, Volume 50, Issue 1, (pp.33-7).”. The DNA of sperm is significantly damaged in men with type 2 diabetes. The causes a higher percentage of infertile sperm and can reduce overall fertility.[/su_spoiler]
Increased nutritional demands
To stay healthy the body needs a consist supply of nutrients, including essential vitamins, minerals, amino acids and trace elements. When you consume too much sugar, nutritional demands are elevated because the body has to make more insulin, adrenalin and cortisol. As nutrient supplies decrease, fertility suffers.
[su_spoiler title=”♀” icon=”arrow-circle-2″] Research shows that often female fertility problems are linked to nutritional deficiencies. Oxidative stress can cause a range of problems from miscarriages to preeclampsia“Burton, G. (2004) Placental Oxidative Stres: From Miscarriage to Preeclampsia, Journal of the Society for Gynecologic Investigation, Volume 11, Issue 6, (pp.342-52).”. Key vitamins such as vitamin C and E are essential for fighting oxidative stress, along with other important amino acids. If these nutrients are in short supply, reproductive health will suffer.[/su_spoiler]
[su_spoiler title=”♂” icon=”arrow-circle-2″] To support healthy sperm it’s essential that the body receives adequate nourishment. This helps to prevent oxidative stress that damages sperm DNA, plus supports sperm development over the three months it takes to mature. Without an adequate supply of important amino acids, trace elements, vitamins and minerals, sperm health will decline and this will compromise fertility.[/su_spoiler]
Improve Fertility by Avoiding Excess Sugar
There’s no question that too much sugar can severely reduce fertility in both men and women. If you can lower your sugar intake, you can better support healthy fertility and improve conception chances.
By eating less sugar your immune system will function better and your hormone levels will be healthier. Nutritional demands will be reduced and insulin resistance lowered.
In addition to improving fertility, your overall health will be better supported.
|↑1||“Fica, S. et.al. (2008) Insulin resistance and fertility in polycystic ovary syndrome, Journal of Medicine and Life, Volume 1, Issue 4, (pp.415-22).”|
|↑2||“Mallidis, C. et.al. (2011) The influence of diabetes mellitus on malereproductive function: a poorly investigated aspect of male infertility, Urologe, Volume 50, Issue 1, (pp.33-7).”|
|↑3||“Burton, G. (2004) Placental Oxidative Stres: From Miscarriage to Preeclampsia, Journal of the Society for Gynecologic Investigation, Volume 11, Issue 6, (pp.342-52).”|