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George Mason University

Seafood-Rich Diet May Help Couples Get Pregnant Faster

May 25, 2018

Couples who eat more seafood tend to have sexual intercourse more often and get pregnant faster than other couples trying to conceive, according to a new study by CHHS Dean Germaine Louis and colleagues published in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Seafood is an important source of protein and other nutrients for women who are or may become pregnant, but concerns about mercury have led some women to avoid fish when trying to conceive. According to the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency, 90 percent of the fish eaten in the United States is low in mercury and safe to eat. Although the agencies recommend two to three servings of lower-mercury fish per week, 50 percent of pregnant women still eat far less than the recommended amount.

"Our findings emphasize the importance of couples’ lifestyle for reproductive health, including when trying for pregnancy,"  says Louis. "Fish consumption is an important component of a nutritious diet, and it may promote libido while minimizing time required for couples to achieve pregnancy." 

In the prospective cohort study, researchers from Harvard followed 500 Michigan and Texas couples from the Longitudinal Investigation of Fertility and the Environment (LIFE) Study for one year to determine the relationship between seafood intake and time to pregnancy. Participants recorded their seafood intake and sexual activity in daily journals.

The researchers found that 92 percent of couples who ate seafood more than twice a week were pregnant at the end of one year, compared to 79 percent among couples consuming less seafood. The association between seafood and faster time to pregnancy was not completely explained by more frequent sexual activity, suggesting other biological factors were at play. These could include effects on semen quality, ovulation or embryo quality, Gaskins said.

"Our results stress the importance of not only female, but also male diet on time to pregnancy and suggests that both partners should be incorporating more seafood into their diets for the maximum fertility benefit," said author Audrey Gaskins of Harvard Medical School.

Other authors of the study include: Rajeshwari Sundaram of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Bethesda, Md.; and Jorge Chavarro of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School in Boston, Mass.

The study was supported by the Intramural Program of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and grants from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

The study, "Seafood Intake, Sexual Activity, and Time to Pregnancy,"  will be published online, ahead of print.

Related people: Germaine Louis, PhD, MS
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