Wading through the multitude of information about soy and fertility can be confusing. Both women and men can find conflicting reports on how soy will affect their fertility.
Soy Affects Ovulation
Soy contains plant-derived estrogens called isoflavones, which have different effects upon the body due to their differing forms. But knowing exactly how it affects your body can make a difference in how you use soy food products.
On countless message boards and forums, there are threads with titles like "Info on Soy & Ovulation" the debate whether soy is akin to using Clomid when it comes to helping correct ovulatory problems.
Countless women across the Internet claim to have known someone or have used soy supplements or products themselves to produce a successful cycle. Often, the anecdotal tales deal with women who ingested large amounts of soy at the beginning of a cycle.
Contrary to the number of women who are upping their soy intake for increased chances for ovulation, scientific evidence shows that soy may actually have a slightly detrimental effect to no noticeable affect whatsoever upon women's fertility. Published findings from studies on soy over the last 25 years include:
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1994: Soy . . . increased follicular phase length and/or delayed menstruation. Midcycle surges of luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone were significantly suppressed . . .
- The Journal of Nutrition, 2002: Soy consumption . . . can lead to increased menstrual cycle length . . .
- European Journal of Nutrition, 2004: High short-term isoflavone-containing soy intake . . . has no significant effects on most circulating sex hormones . . . in young healthy women.
Researchers have found a link between the ingestion of soy isoflavones in infancy and long-term effects upon women's reproductive systems, including ovulation.
Women and Soy Intake
It appears that despite the number of women who purport that soy are fertility have an obvious link, the stories are simply ancedotal. Although soy may need to be eaten on a regular basis in high doses for the effects to be detrimental, there seems to be no scientific evidence that soy hormone isoflavones produce a positive effect on ovulation.
However, if you are following a pregnancy diet that includes foods to increase fertility, soybeans may be listed as a good source of protein. For women who are lacking proper nutrition, soybeans can be helpful.
Figuring out the amount of soy you should eat while trying to conceive or when pregnant can be hard to do alone. Speak with your doctor about the pros and cons of soy in your pregnancy diet during a preconception check up.
Men, Soy, and Fertility
The Harvard School of Public Health published findings on male fertility and soy in the July 23, 2008, issue of Human Reproduction. The findings showed that men who ate the most soy had 41 million sperm per milliliter less than the other men in the study. The link between soy consumption and sperm count seemed to be more prominent among men who were overweight or obese.
Soyfoods Association of North America (SANA) disputes the claims made by the study. SANA purports that men should be aware of several flaws in the original study, including the small sample size, obesity link, and recollected intake rather than diet.
Men who are obese or overweight and experiencing fertility problems may find it beneficial to speak with their primary doctor about whether they should be limiting the amount of soy in their diets. Preconception nutrition is important for both partners, not just the female.
Food and Fertility
Reports on the effect food has on fertility are often forthcoming. From old wives tales about eating oysters and chocolate to the newest debate about soy, the obstetrical and nutritional community offers few concrete answers. Each new study provides further insight into each debate.
Stay informed about foods, like soy, that may affect your fertility. Discuss any concerns with your healthcare providers about the potential consequences that come with eating particular foods.