As the popularity of vegan and vegetarian diets continues to rise, it’s important to understand how these diets may impact fertility in women. While some studies have shown benefits of vegetarian diets for overall health, there is growing evidence that these diets may be detrimental to female reproductive health.
One study of nearly 9,000 women found that vegetarians and semi-vegetarians had more menstrual problems than their non-vegetarian counterparts. These women experienced higher incidences of PMS, irregular periods, heavy periods, and period pain. The reason for this may lie in the fact that sex hormones are made from cholesterol, which is primarily found in animal products. Plant sterols, which are the “cholesterol” equivalent from plants, don’t have the same effect on the body. Additionally, protein from animal products tends to be more bioavailable than protein from plant products, which can also impact hormone production.
Furthermore, certain nutrients critical for pre-conception and prenatal development are only available in animal products. These include vitamin A, vitamin D and vitamin B12. Other nutrients are less easily absorbed from vegetarian sources, such as omega-3 fats, iron and zinc. Vegetarians often have lower levels of these nutrients, which can lead to fertility issues.
If you’re currently experiencing menstrual difficulties and are vegetarian or vegan, it may be worth considering strategically adding some eggs or meat back into your diet. You get to decide what’s best for your body in the context of your fertility goals.
Ultimately, the decision to eat animal products or not is a personal one, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition. However, understanding the relationship between vegan and vegetarian diets and fertility can help women make informed decisions about their dietary choices and reproductive health.