Coffee, Tea and Fertility: time to re-evaluate an outdated concept

Coffee

As both a physician and researcher, I have come to realize that it is much more difficult to dispel a popular belief that is wrong than it is to prove a new finding. A classic example is the popular notion that coffee and tea are harmful for women trying to conceive. Both are drinks created from small trees/shrubs—coffee is made from the seed (not bean) of the plant Cofea Arabica whereas tea is made from the leaves of the plant Camellia sinensis. Interesting, both are now known to have a growing number of health benefits. In fact, both—when served unsweetened—regularly appear after water as the “second healthiest beverage” to consume in moderate quantities of 3 to 4 cups per day.

Both coffee and tea contain various plant produced antioxidants as well as health promoting polyphenols and flavonoids. Coffee has been shown to reduce the risk of diabetes and tea is linked to a reduced risk of heart disease. Both are linked to a longer life expectancy. In fact, in 2016 the Nurses Health Study demonstrated that moderate coffee consumption may even protect DNA—potentially slowing the effects of aging and possibly even optimizing fertility. So where does the negative reputation of these beverages come from? I link this myth to obsolete observational studies and the concerns that they raised about caffeine consumption.

Here’s what the current information shows:

 

Bottom line is that these low calorie, plant based beverages may have some health and fertility boosting benefits. Any risk from them is not associated with mild to moderate daily consumption.

Stay informed,

~Robert

Robert Greene, MD, FACOG

Conceptions Reproductive Associates of Colorado

Doctors like me tell you to eat less meat. It’s time to start listening.

“If the benefits of better diet came in a pill, it would be hailed as a medical miracle.” 

green and red healthy food

I spend a portion of each new patient visit evaluating diet and lifestyle. Since I started asking, I’ve been surprised by how many patients have confided in me that they are willing to try something new and want to change.  I believe that as your doctor, I have the responsibility to share with you the evidence that diet and lifestyle absolutely can work for or against you in terms of fertility. I also believe that one of the most important parts of my job is helping families become the healthiest they can be BEFORE conceiving.

I want to be honest. I’m not perfect and I would never pretend to be. My family members love meat- including (gasp!) hot dogs! Being vegetarian is challenging, especially when kids and working parents are involved. I get it. My goal is to make my family as plant -based as is reasonable. I hope that it will work, but I also recognize that the benefits of a plant-based diet are not “all or nothing.” Any change is a step in the right direction. And I absolutely will not shame or judge you if this doesn’t work for your family. With that, I encourage you to consider learning more about plant-based diets and whether it might be something you would be willing to try. It can’t hurt, but it may help enhance your fertility naturally and reduce your risk of a number of medical problems.

If you are interested in learning more, here are a few links to evidence-based resources that sold me on plant-based.

I would love to hear from you. What is the biggest challenge in your family that prevents you from going plant-based? Have you tried being vegetarian? What worked? What didn’t? What are your favorite plant-based meals to help convince my family?

Metformin and Fertility Treatment: the expanding uses for an age-old drug

We all get excited about new things. But most people remain skeptical when you suggest that something old may be better. In fact, what if something VERY old may be one of the hottest developments in a high tech field like fertility treatment? That’s what has been quietly happening with the medication known as metformin.

Galego officianalis

Metformin has been used since the time of the pharaohs (around 1500 B.C.E.) but it was extracted from the plant Galega officinalis (see image). From then until the discovery of insulin; this was the primary treatment for diabetes. Unfortunately, like many plant extracts there were many other compounds present as well—some with serious and/or troubling side effects. The modern synthesized version of metformin has been purified making it safer and easier to study.

 

The best known use of metformin in reproductive medicine is in the treatment of women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). But we’re now learning that there are many other ways that his modern version of an herbal remedy can help improve the outcome of fertility treatment. Although I’m not a fan of lists, the complexity of this treatment is beyond a simple blog post. So here is what you may want to consider when planning your treatment with your doctor:

 

 

In summary, pregnancy is a very multifaceted process. Sometimes, we still have a lot to learn about something that has been around for a long time.

Excited to Join the Team!

I’m THRILLED to report that I have officially started accepting new patients at Conceptions!

If you have read the blog before, you may have already caught on to my passion for enhancing fertility through diet & lifestyle changes. If you are new to the blog, welcome!

I joined the field of reproductive endocrinology & infertility because of my love for science and applying the newest findings to clinical medicine. I joined Conceptions because I have the opportunity to practice individualized medicine and boutique-style care in one of the best IVF labs in the country.

I cherish the relationships that I develop with my patients and their families. In fact, I provide my patients with my direct email information and I welcome them to contact me directly with any questions or concerns. I enjoy having open discussions with patients about options and alternatives. I encourage my patients to choose the treatment best suited for their individual family.

As a physician and a mom, I get it. I understand how stressful it is to balance work and life. I also understand how challenging it can be as a patient. By offering to meet with patients online via WebEx or Skype, my goal is to make the process of obtaining care as easy and stress-free as possible.

Fertility is a challenging and complex life event. I’m here to help by discussing all your options, encouraging you and your family to optimize your health, and cheering for you along the way of any treatment you may need. I look forward to meeting you and your family!

Are Low-Calorie Sweeteners Making Your Baby Fat?

Obesity is a major risk factor for problems conceiving and pregnancy complications. Obesity is a potentially modifiable risk factor, meaning this is something that you can change to improve your chances of getting pregnant, having a healthy pregnancy, and having a healthy kiddo. This subject is so important that I thought I would blog about it again.

 

In December, our blog brought you new data that revealed that people that used low-calorie sweeteners in their lifetime were more likely to be obese than those who didn’t use these sweeteners.

 

Today, we want to caution you even more about using these sweeteners. Researchers have found that women who drank at least one artificially sweetened beverage per day during pregnancy had children who were more likely to be obese by the time they turned 7 years old. These findings suggest that artificially sweetened beverages during pregnancy are not likely to be any better at reducing the risk for later childhood obesity than sugar sweetened beverages! So these patients may have been drinking the diet version without any measurable benefit for their children; diet versions may have actually lead to harm! Interestingly, substituting a glass of water for a sweetened beverage reduced their children’s obesity risk by nearly 20%!

 

I am always cautious in interpreting data, particularly when it comes to weight because we know that so many other factors could influence children’s weight gain (Ex: physical activity, etc). Although the data doesn’t prove that maternal artificially sweetened beverage consumption caused children to gain weight, the data is strong enough for me to counsel my patients to avoid drinking any drinks with artificial sweeteners when pregnant.

 

Take home points:

  • Limit using artificial sweeteners during pregnancy
  • Consider trying some of these more natural sweeteners; note that there are limited long-term studies of these alternatives in pregnancy.
  • If all the natural sweetener options are overwhelming, stick to the basics: a cold glass of water!

Joyfully Assisting the LGBT Community in achieving their reproductive goals

Pride 2017

As Denver celebrates Pride Week; we wanted to reach out and extend our gratitude to our LGBT patients for accepting our invitation to help them create the family of their dreams. We realize that you haven’t always received compassionate care from the medical community and that you—like everyone else—want building your family to be as exciting and as efficient as possible. In fact, some of you have traveled to us from other states and even across oceans seeking such a setting. We’re proud that you chose us. Here’s to all of you!

In deepest gratitude,

The TEAM at Conceptions Reproductive Associates of Colorado

Another reason to eat whole grains

I spend a significant amount of time with each of my patients reviewing their lifestyle and dietary habits. Ultimately, we all have the same goal: happy healthy families. I strongly believe that part of my job as a reproductive endocrinologist and infertility physician is helping build healthier families. As I reviewed in previous posts, we believe that our habits before and during pregnancy can program many diseases in childhood and later in life.

 

I previously discussed the importance of whole grain diet as it relates to fertility. New research suggests yet another reason why you should consider whole grains, and stick with it throughout a pregnancy. Researchers found that children born to women with gestational diabetes who consumed the most refined grain (more than 156 grams per day) were twice as likely to be obese at age 7, compared to children born to women with gestational diabetes who ate the least amount of refined grain (less than 37 grams per day).

 

Take home point: eating refined carbs in pregnancy could increase the risk of your child being obese at a young age.  “You are what you eat” … and based on this study, your future child will be too.

 

What you can do:

  • Substitute one meal a day for something with more whole grains.