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Being vegan can boost fertility and help you have a vivacious and robust baby! By Juliet Gellatley, founder & director of Viva! and VVF, nutritional therapist, mum and co-author of Viva!’s new Vegetarian and Vegan Mother and Baby Guide


Baby Love


Fertility problems affect one in seven couples in the UK. There are many causes – certainly not diet alone but its affect is often underplayed. How we eat particularly impacts on the baby in the womb but a calorie intake that is too low or too high, and vitamin deficiencies, can be a root cause of infertility. Lifestyle choices such as alcohol and drug use may also have an impact. Tobacco smokers are 60 per cent more likely to be infertile than non-smokers! Diet and lifestyle choices are important


for men and women who want to make a baby. Both should focus on a highly nutritious vegan diet that maximises the ideal intake of complex carbohydrates, fibre, protein, omega 3 and 6 ‘good’ fats, vitamins and minerals. A balanced vegetarian, or better still,


vegan diet is packed with disease busting, body and brain nurturing nutrients and is ideal for boosting fertility and for a healthy pregnancy. Just as importantly, a vegan diet particularly lacks the nasties you need to avoid – saturated animal fats, cholesterol, concentrated pesticides, cancer promoters, dioxins and mercury. The latter two are in practically all fish. And few people realise that cows’ milk


contains 35 hormones and 11 growth factors, including those linked to breast and prostate cancers. The secret of healthy eating for men and


women before and during pregnancy is variety but focusing on wholegrains (3 servings daily), pulses (peas, beans and lentils of all types plus unsalted mixed nuts if not from an allergy-prone family and seeds (2 to 3 portions daily), and fresh fruit and vegetables (7 to 10 servings daily), as well as some healthy essential fats and vitamin B12 fortified foods. Viva!’s new colourful laminated wallchart, What I Need Each Day(£2) is a friendly food reminder (www.vivashop.org.uk/wallcharts or call 0117 944 1000) and will help maximise your fertility.


Weighty issue As two-thirds of Brits are overweight or obese, diet has become a central issue for fertility and babies’ health. The biggest study of European vegans to date compared over 1,000 of them to tens of


16 viva!life


thousands of meat eaters and vegetarians. The meat eaters, on average, were significantly heavier than the vegans. Even allowing for differences in exercise, smoking and other lifestyle factors, vegans came out slimmer in every age group and are usually their ideal healthy weight, or close to it. Less than two per cent of vegans are obese in stark contrast to the rest of the population. Recent research has shown that mums


who eat a high fat and/or high sugar diet during pregnancy can have babies who are predisposed to obesity and when children, to having metabolic syndrome (the precursor to diabetes type 2). It’s equally important not to undereat.


Many studies show that mum’s who do so increase their child’s risk of developing obesity and related diseases (eg heart disease, diabetes, cancer). It is believed


have more erectile problems and impotence and may have a lower sex drive. New research has also shown that red meat slows sperm. Meat is not so macho after all, it seems! Conversely, a study presented in October 2011 at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, Florida, has shown that men who eat a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, pulses and wholegrains have sperm more motile (stronger swimmers) than those who eat low amounts. Weight is an important issue for women


too. A study on almost 50,000 couples in 2007 showed that obese women have almost an 80 per cent greater risk of being sub-fertile than normal-weight women. The VVF’s V Plan Diet(£2.50 from VVF on 0117 970 5190) www.vegetarian.org.uk/guides/ vplan01.html helps men and women regain their mojo by giving tips on a healthy, sustained weight loss.


New research has also shown that red meat slows sperm


that the baby in the womb makes adaptations to the ‘famine’ to prepare him or herself for life after birth. Far from being protective, these changes make the child more vulnerable to obesity and disease.


Count down Men who are obese are three times more likely to have a low sperm count than men of the same background and age who are of a healthy weight. Obese men are also more likely to have sperm that have problems swimming and are misshaped. This can reduce fertility or cause infertility. What’s more, obese men have lower levels of the male sex hormone, testosterone, and higher levels of the female hormone oestrogen. This is because fat cells make oestrogen in men and women and is why overweight men often develop breasts. If a man is obese, the amount of oestrogen subsequently produced may reduce his sperm production. Obese men also tend to


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