Just when you think you’ve heard it all, something comes along that makes you realize you haven’t. Actually, there are a lot of things that I haven’t heard of but this is so bizarre it’s worth talking about.
Here’s a question: What do you think might help older women have babies? Fertility treatment? No. Having a relationship with a man who has a high sperm count? Well yes, but in the context of what I am talking about here, Nah. Give up? Ok. The answer is ice cream.
This revelation, has greater relevance at this time of year if you happen to live in the southern hemisphere, as I do, where the daily summer forecast varies between hot and hotter.
The bottom line is, according to researchers, if you eat ice cream regularly, and you’re an older woman, then it’s going to significantly improve your chances of conceiving a healthy child.
Personally, I don’t need a reason to eat ice cream. Summer or winter. It happens to be one of my favorite pastimes and I have a waistline to prove it.
The research comes from the Massachusetts General Hospital Fertility Center in the United States. They asked women, over the age of 35, to keep a record of what they ate during their IVF treatment.
And when researchers began collating the figures, they discovered something unusual. Those who ate the most ice cream, cream, yogurt and milk, were 21 per cent more likely to give birth than those who rarely ate dairy products. And the quantities don’t need to be big or eaten frequently, every day, to make a difference.
Just three portions of dairy each day is enough to have a significant impact – the daily equivalent of one scoop of ice cream, one glass of milk and a slice of cheese.
So, is there a scientific explanation for why this is happening? Well, apparently there is. According to lead researcher, Dr Jorge Chavarro, of Massachusetts General Hospital, cow’s milk contains hormones that will improve the chances of an embryo being successfully implanted inside the womb.
“We found that women who had the highest intake of dairy were more likely to have live births,” Chavarro said. “ For women under 35 there doesn’t seem to be an association but for women over 35 the association is much stronger. That is the exact opposite of what we expected to find.”
But, I am beginning to think there is an element of the pre-ordained about this research. It turns out the situation is the exact opposite for men. According to this same researcher, if a man eats lots of ice cream, milk, cheese and yoghurt, their fertility will in fact decrease and they’ll end up firing blanks. It is even worse news for obese or overweight men, who eat lots of soy products. This type of food has a catastrophic effect on sperm production. And there’s a scientific reason for this as well. Sperm production is affected by something called phytoestrogens, which are plant compounds that behave exactly like the hormone, oestrogen, which doesn’t like male sperm.
And because obese men, produce more oestrogen than their slimmer counterparts, the adverse effect on sperm production is compounded if you’ll pardon the pun. So the lesson is if you’re male and want to have children it’s best if you are not a vegetarian and you do it at a young age.
But then again if you are male and eat a lot of bacon and processed meat then your sperm count is likely to be 30 percent less than men who avoid these kinds of food.
In fact, Doctor Chavarro is deeply concerned about how beef is produced in the United States because of its possible, harmful effect on male infertility. He says many beef producers give their cattle, natural or synthetic hormones, to stimulate growth, a few days and weeks before they are slaughtered at the abattoir.
These hormones may well be one of the culprits in lowering the male sperm count. In fact if men want to eat food that is going to boost their fertility rather than reduce it, they are better off eating walnuts. They not only improve the quality of sperm production, they can also turn weak swimmers into sperm strong enough to swim across the English Channel.
But getting back to the story of how ice cream is helping to improve the fertility of older women, dairy products contain the hormone, progesterone and that is very good news.. This hormone, makes the female womb become sticky which can have a glue like effect when an embryo is implanted using IVF.
Progesterone production, is known to decrease in women as they get older so this is giving them a new lease of life..
Personally, I’m not quite sure what to make of this research. On the one hand, it offers a glimmer of hope for women who might have left the decision to have a family very late in life. But on the other, it is basically saying that overweight, middle aged men, who are either vegetarian or eat too much processed meat, are almost good for nothing.
And while I am not a vegetarian, nor do I eat a lot of processed meat, I do pretty much fulfil the other requirements which makes me feel a little besieged by all of this news.
I guess if nothing else it gives true meaning to the phrase, you are what you eat.