May 29, 2023

Dubai Week

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Fertility: Can Certain Foods Boost Fertility?

  • Jessica Madet
  • The future of the BBC

Image copyright Getty Images

If you visit any of the fertility chat rooms on the Internet, one of the main topics discussed is what foods women should eat to increase their chances of pregnancy and having babies. A variety of nutritional supplements are promoted as helpful in increasing fertility, and there are a variety of foods that contribute to a healthy pregnancy.

But amidst all these myths and marketing slogans, what is the evidence to support the idea that eating certain foods leads to increased male or female fertility and promotes normal fetal development?

First, when it comes to contributing to the health of a pregnant woman or fetus, few nutrients can make a real difference, like folic acid. Consuming it before and during pregnancy has been shown to help prevent the birth defect called “anencephaly” and spina bifida in the fetus.

Because these defects usually develop early in pregnancy, before a woman realizes she is pregnant, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States recommends that all women of childbearing age take 400 micrograms of folic acid daily. Fortifying staple foods such as breakfast cereals with folic acid may provide strong protection against these abnormalities, as many pregnancies are unintended. In 2019, it was estimated that effective folic acid fortification programs prevented 22 percent of cases of anencephaly and spina bifida worldwide.