The Surprising Connection Between Sugar and Fertility: What Every Woman Should Know

April 17, 2023

The Surprising Connection Between Sugar and Fertility: What Every Woman Should Know

When you’re trying to conceive, it’s natural to think about the foods you’re eating, the supplements you’re taking, and the lifestyle changes you need to make to optimize your chances of getting pregnant. But have you ever considered the impact of sugar on your fertility? While many women know that sugar isn’t great for their overall health, few realize just how bad it can be to their reproductive health. Let's explore the surprising connection between sugar and fertility and why every woman should consider foregoing sweet treats while trying to conceive.

The Impact of Sugar on Female Hormones

It’s no secret that sugar can wreak havoc on your blood sugar levels, leading to insulin resistance and other health problems. But did you know that sugar can also interfere with your hormonal balance, which is essential for optimal fertility? When you consume sugary foods and drinks, your body experiences a rapid spike in blood sugar levels, followed by a sharp drop. This rollercoaster effect can disrupt the delicate balance of hormones that regulate your menstrual cycle, including estrogen, progesterone, and luteinizing hormone.

In particular, high sugar consumption has been linked to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal disorder that affects up to 10% of women of reproductive age. Women with PCOS often have insulin resistance, which can lead to high levels of androgens (male hormones) and irregular periods, making it more difficult to conceive. By cutting out sugar, women with PCOS may improve their insulin sensitivity and over time regulate their menstrual cycles, increasing their chances of getting pregnant.

Insulin Resistance and Fertility

As mentioned above, sugar can lead to insulin resistance, a condition in which your cells become less responsive to insulin, a hormone that helps your body use glucose for energy. When your cells don’t respond to insulin properly, your pancreas produces more insulin to compensate, leading to high levels of insulin in your blood. This can not only exacerbate PCOS but also affect your fertility in other ways.

Insulin resistance can cause your body to produce more androgens, which can interfere with ovulation making it more difficult to get pregnant. In addition, high insulin levels can reduce the production of sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), a protein that binds to estrogen and testosterone, making them more available for use in the body. This can lead to an imbalance of hormones that affect your menstrual cycle and fertility.

The Impact of Sugar on Inflammation

Inflammation is a natural response that helps your body fight off infection and heal from injury. But when inflammation becomes chronic, it can contribute to a host of health problems, including infertility. Sugar is a known contributor to chronic inflammation, triggering the release of inflammatory cytokines that can damage your tissues and disrupt your immune system.

Inflammation can slowly over time damage your reproductive organs, affecting your ability to conceive and carry a pregnancy to term. Chronic inflammation can also aggravate autoimmune disorders, such as Hashimoto's thyroiditis, which can impact your fertility. By reducing your sugar intake and following an anti-inflammatory diet, you can lower your risk of chronic inflammation and support your reproductive health.

The Impact of Sugar on Egg Quality

Finally, sugar can also affect the quality of your eggs, which is essential for successful fertilization and implantation. A study published in the Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics found that women who consumed high amounts of sugar had lower rates of fertilization and pregnancy success during in vitro fertilization (IVF). This is because sugar can contribute to oxidative stress, a condition in which your body produces more free radicals than it can neutralize with antioxidants.

I hope this blog post helps you decide to ditch the sugar when trying to conceive.  I think this instruction is so important that I included a whole chapter on the subject in my book, "The Fertility Book." 

Best wishes on your fertility journey and thank you for reading.


Dr. Tamara