Seafood-Rich Diet May Reduce Time to Pregnancy

Kristin Jenkins

June 01, 2018

The popularly held belief that oysters have aphrodisiac powers may hold more than a grain truth.

The prospective LIFE (Longitudinal Investigation of Fertility and the Environment) study of 501 couples planning pregnancy  shows that couples consuming two or more servings of seafood every week enjoyed more sex and got pregnant faster than those eating seafood less often.

After 1 year, 92% of couples with a seafood-rich diet had conceived compared with 79% of couples with diets that contained less fish and shellfish, according to Audrey J. Gaskins, ScD, from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts, and colleagues.

Moreover, the significantly decreased time to pregnancy among couples who ate more seafood did not appear to be completely explained by the increase in sexual activity, Gaskins and colleagues report in an article published online May 23 in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Previous studies have suggested that higher seafood intake may improve quantity and quality of sperm, reduce risk for anovulation, benefit ovulation and menstrual cycle function, and improve embryo quality measures and early embryo development, they point out.

"We observed a positive association between seafood intake and SIF [sexual intercourse frequency], supporting popular beliefs of the aphrodisiac properties of seafood," Gaskins and colleagues write. "[S]eafood intake in both partners was associated with higher frequency of sexual intercourse and fecundity."

Results showed that when both partners ate seafood on the same day, they had a 39% higher chance of having sexual intercourse than couples not eating seafood on the same day.

In addition, couples consuming eight or more servings of fish or shellfish each month had a 61% higher rate of fecundity than couples consuming one or fewer servings of seafood a month. (The rate of fecundity was 47% higher when only the male partner ate this amount of seafood each month and 60%  higher when only the female partner did.) This advantage plateaued at around 14 to 16 seafood servings per month.

These findings highlight the need for preconception guidance about the importance of diet on fertility, the study authors say. 

"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 Gaskins in a statement issued by the Endocrine Society.

The researchers note that seafood is the primary food source of marine long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, which are related to markers of fecundity in both men and women. Fish and shellfish can also contain toxicants, however.

In the United States, about 50% of pregnant women and those trying to conceive don't eat the recommended two to three servings of seafood each week, the study authors point out. "Future research is needed that specifically evaluates the potential harms associated with predatory fish intake, which tends to contain higher levels of persistent environmental chemicals and mercury."

In January 2017, the US Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency recommended that pregnant women and those trying to conceive eat no more than three servings of seafood per week. These guidelines, issued to limit fetal methyl-mercury exposure, may not consider the potential reproductive benefits of seafood intake, Gaskins and colleagues say. The current study addresses "the gap," they add.

For the study, 501 couples from Texas and Michigan who were planning pregnancy and enrolled in the 2005-2009 LIFE study were followed for 12 months or until pregnancy was confirmed. Participants recorded their daily intake of 4-ounce servings of fish or shellfish, including canned tuna fish, and fish, crab, shrimp, or other shellfish caught in unknown or local waters.

Study participants also used a daily journal to record the frequency of sexual intercourse.

The study showed that both male and female seafood intake was independently associated with SIF, with slightly stronger associations for men. In men who ate seafood nine or more times per month, SIF was 22.9% higher than in men who ate seafood two or fewer times per month (P = .007).

When both partners ate seafood nine or more times per month, SIF was increased by 21.9% compared with couples who ate less fish.

There was also an absolute difference of 13% in the incidence of infertility between couples who ate seafood often and those who didn't.

This study was supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Gaskins and study coauthors have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. Published on May 23, 2018.  Abstract

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