A recent study suggests a link between increased consumption of sugar and infertility.
There’s a surprising connection between consumption of sugar and fertility. Sugar-sweetened beverages consumed every day by either partner reduce the couple’s chances of pregnancy, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Epidemiology. Sugar or increased glucose levels in the body do not have a direct link with fertility but the associated complications like insulin resistance, diabetes mellitus, weight gain, lowered immunity and hormonal imbalance are found to decline the fertility potential of the individual.
Dr Saroja Koppala, senior fertility consultant, explains how a high-sugar diet makes it difficult for the body to break down stored fat, leading to disruptions inside the body, causing fertility problems.
How does intake of sugar affect the fertility rate?
High glucose levels in the blood lead to hormone disruption as there is weight gain and insulin resistance in the body. In conception, hormones like estrogen and progesterone play vital roles. One of the common problems that arise due to hormonal imbalance is ovulatory dysfunction in women, that is, difficulty in the eggs being released from the ovaries. Often there are symptoms such as irregular or absent menses. Another hormonal imbalance disorder associated with insulin resistance called PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) is also common in women. PCOS occurs in 1 in 10 women.
In men, high blood glucose levels can affect testosterone levels causing problems with sperm production. About 30-40% of infertility cases are because of reduced sperm count and poor quality sperms. If the sperm is not healthy enough, it will be difficult for it to fertilize an egg to form the embryo, thus causing problems in conception.
Recent research talks about how sugar-laced drinks affect the female reproductive system. How much sugar is required for the body and from where is this excess sugar being pumped in and in what forms?
On an average, the daily sugar limit for women is about 25-28g and for men is 37-40g. That equals to about 5% of the recommended overall calorie intake i.e. 2,000 calories per day. What most people don’t realise is where the sugar comes from. Glucose is present in almost all foods that we consume. Natural sugar is present in several fruits and vegetables, while added sugars such as honey, syrup, and sweeteners are present in plenty of food products. Alcohol also has sugar in it.
In packaged food products, it is very easy to identify the amount of sugar present as it is often listed in the ingredients. Foods to limit include more than just desserts and sodas. In fact, juicing a fruit is known to extract more sugar out of it than eating it. White bread, pasta, ketchup and sauces, iced tea/coffee, breakfast cereals, protein bars, cookies, jam, etc. are some of the everyday food items that are rich in sugar.
In the case of pregnant women or women who are trying to conceive, being overweight and eating unhealthy food can affect the chances of having a healthy baby or conceiving. If you are overweight and planning to start a family, you must commit to a healthy eating habit that consists of less sugar intake and regular exercise plan.
As lifestyles change, we find that both men and women opt for sugary drinks from their early childhood. Does the storage of sugar begin from early days?
People are exposed to sweets, soft drinks, and other junk food at a very young age today. Lifestyle changes, structure of families (with both parents working), higher disposable income, and exposure to global trends play a role in this. Excessive intake of sugary drinks or aerated drinks at all ages is dangerous and has an adverse effect on one’s health.
These days, a large number of children have a diet that is very high in the sugar content. This has led to increased incidence of diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular problems, which are major public health problems. Even though there is higher metabolic rate in children, the amount of physical activity is coming down because of the wide variety of choices in technology such as mobile phones, video games, etc.
How can a person who is having sugar, balance it out? Do alkaline foods help the body to balance sugary foods or burn it?
Alkaline foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, unsweetened milk and yogurt, nuts, beans, lentils, etc. act as some of best alternatives to sugary foods. However, they do have slight traces of sugar in them and they do not negate the sugar intake from other foods. Sadly, the only way to keep the blood sugar levels in control is by reducing the overall sugar intake.
Beans, lentils, and pulses provide an excellent source of fibre, protein, and other nutrients vital to fertility. The intake of whole fruits and vegetables, especially green leafy ones, has beneficial effects on general health. Green leafy vegetables are rich in fibre and have low energy and the glycaemic load on the body is also less. They also have a large amount of micronutrients.
Can sugar be stated as one of the prime reasons for the growing fertility issues in men and women? What are the other contributing factors?
Infertility is not the result of just a particular factor. There are multiple reasons and conditions that result in infertility for both men and women. Some of the known causes of infertility include:
Infections such as mumps, other viral infections, and chronic infections like TB, prostatitis, etc. and diseases like cancer. Pelvic and testicular injuries can cause infertility in men. Other medical causes such as cryptorchidism (undescended testes), aplasia (congenital obstructions), vasectomy, post-infective ejaculatory disturbances and sexual dysfunctions are also common.
Varicocele: An enlargement of the veins that wraps around the testicles and affects sperm development. It occurs in about 15 to 20 per cent of infertile men.
Premature ovarian failure: Ovulation or the process of egg maturing stops in women under the age of 40. Eggs are no longer produced and oestrogen production is lowered.
Damage to fallopian tubes: Damaged or blocked fallopian tubes keep the sperm from getting to the egg or block the passage of the fertilised egg into the uterus.
Endometriosis occurs when the tissue that normally grows in the uterus implants and grows in other locations. This extra tissue growth — and the surgical removal of it — can cause scarring, which may block fallopian tubes and keep an egg and sperm from uniting.
Will there be a reversal in the body as far as fertility is concerned? Or is it a cycle that happens only during a particular age and once the age is gone is it difficult to achieve the same?
When it comes to infertility, age is an important factor. The ideal age for women to achieve pregnancy is between 25 and 35 years, and in men, the quality of the sperm is at its best when they are aged under 45 years. The quality and quantity of eggs start declining from the age of 38 in most women, thereby causing difficulties in conceiving. The success rates in women undergoing different kinds of fertility treatments decrease with an increase in age.
As women age, other complications also rise, thereby leading to a high-risk pregnancy even if conception takes place. Moreover, conditions such as endometriosis and unexplained infertility make it a challenge for women to conceive even through Assisted Reproductive Technology.