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Eating Ice Cream May Boost Fertility

By Nan N. Ransohoff, Contributing Writer

Could an extra bowl of Häagen-Dazs ice cream be the new solution for women who are having difficulty conceiving?

A recent study led by a research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health shows that consumption of ice cream and other high-fat dairy foods is associated with a decreased risk of one type of infertility.

Fat-soluble foods are thought to improve ovarian functions, and the study’s authors say that fact could explain the decreased infertility rate in women who consume regular dairy foods.

Inversely, low-fat dairy foods were associated with a higher risk of infertility.

According to the study, the issue is especially pressing because the “Dietary Guidelines for Americans” suggests a daily intake of three servings of low-fat dairy products.

The study argues that such a strategy “might be deleterious for women planning to become pregnant,” showing that women who consume two or more low-fat diary products per day were over twice as likely to have anovulatory infertility as compared with women who ate one or less serving of low-fat dairy a week, after accounting for other possibly confounding factors, such as exercise.

Even women who consumed only one or more servings of skim or low-fat milk per week had a significantly increased risk of anovulatory infertility than women with an intake of less than one per week.

But leading author Jorge E. Chavarro, a research fellow in Harvard’s Department of Nutrition, cautioned about the need for future research. He does not advise women to take the study’s results as a reason to stock up on fat-packed ice cream.

“Our findings regarding high-fat dairy were very unexpected,” he said. “There is very limited data in humans to advise women one way or another in regards to the consumption of high-fat dairy foods.”

He noted that it could be dangerous for women to consume excess amounts of saturated fats or to add extra calories to their diet.

The study, published in yesterday’s edition of the European journal Human Reproduction, included 18,555 married, healthy women ages 24 to 42, who were identified as trying to get pregnant or having become pregnant within an eight-year period.

Data was collected through the Nurses’ Health Study in which questionnaires including information on fertility and diet were issued every two years.

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