Nearly 5 decades ago, geneticist James Neel proposed that there is a genetic basis for the increased risk of developing diabetes that is experienced by populations that have more recently become exposed to our modern diet and lifestyle. Since that time, considerable data has been gathered and analyzed to explain this "thrifty gene hypothesis." Simply stated, there seems to be a survival advantage to having physiology that is adapted to storing calories when food is plentiful and utilizing them more slowly when food is scarce. Yet during the last century, our diet and lifestyle has changed so that currently we exercise less and actually have to make an effort to avoid overconsumption. So what once was a survival advantage is now an invitation to hormone imbalance.
Interestingly, studies [g1] of domestication of animals suggest that it takes 12 to 25 generations for a species to adapt from a wild to suburban lifestyle. That's why our dogs and cats are experiencing rising rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease while cows and pigs seem immune to these conditions. So how does this information relate to humans? More importantly, what can we do about it? Take corrective actions.
It is now well established that our modern trends promote "insulin resistance." This hormone imbalance is associated with an elevated risk of obesity, heart disease and diabetes. In men, it often leads to a low sperm count and failing testosterone production whereas in women it triggers higher testosterone and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)[g2] . The bottom line is that was once a survival advantage for our ancestors is now a fertility challenge for couples today. The simple truth is that a conscious change in food choices will redirect many couples on a path toward better health as well as improving their chance of becoming pregnant.
My colleague, Dr. Ernest Zeringue, has developed a diet [g3] based upon food choices that blunt the insulin response. We have found that when properly instructed, many women with PCOS lose weight easily on this diet while also improving their egg quality and their chances of conception. If you haven't considered a similar intervention to correct your insulin resistance; I'd encourage you to do so.
Although some medications or surgical procedures can create similar results, it is very empowering for most people to learn that they can often control their own destiny.
8 thoughts on “Food, Fertility & PCOS”
That’s so true, we are living in a society that promotes insulin resistance, and PCOS is a very common manifestation of this problem. In many cases, a diet reducing foods that increase insulin will go a long way to reducing the symptoms and metabolic imbalances of this condition.
Dr Greene, do you mean that diabetes can affect sperm count? Is there any scientific publications that support this? Thanks.
Diabetes (type II) has a well described impact upon male fertility. In fact, pre-diabetes–a condition called Metabolic Syndrome–has also been associated with a reduction in both sperm count and quality. The evidence suggests that the elevated insulin level associated with “insulin resistance” is the cause of this association. The good news is that studies also suggest that this is likely reversible in most cases. If you’d like to read more about this hormone imbalance and how to try to reduce its impact on your chance of achieving a pregnancy you may wish to check out my book PERFECT HORMONE BALANCE FOR FERTILITY at your local library, bookstore or http://www.amazon.com. In it I review the latest research on this important subject.
Robert Greene, MD, FACOG
Thank you very much, Dr Greene!
Hi Dr. Greene, I am a fellow PCOS-er in northern California, and I’m ready to try IVF, but I really really want you to be my doctor. I’ve heard nothing but wonderful things about you. Please let me know where you are (or will be) practicing, and how to contact your office. Thank you for your consideration.
Thank you for your kind words and for your desire to seek my opinion. I am in the process of finalizing my plans and should be able to answer your question in just a couple of weeks. Please check back with me. I am eager to assist you in achieving your goal through a unique comprehensive and holistic approach to managing PCOS.
Robert Greene MD, FACOG
Hi Dr. Greene,
It’s been a few weeks, so I’m checking back in with you to see where you’re at and if I can schedule an appointment with you soon. Are you able to see my personal email address? Let me know if you are or will soon be seeing patients. I look forward to meeting you.
Thank you for your confidence. I will be joining the practice of Dr. Rob Kiltz at CNY Fertility in the coming weeks. I am very excited about the holistic approach to fertility care that we offer at this facility. Please check out the link to our our website for more information: http://cnyfertility.com
It would be an honor to participate in your care.