Scientific American presents Nutrition Diva by Quick & Dirty Tips. Scientific American and Quick & Dirty Tips are both Macmillan companies.

Fertility medicine, which barely existed 50 or 60 years ago, is one of today’s fastest growing medical specialties. Many couples are waiting longer to start their families these days and as the age of wannabe parents increases, so do their fertility troubles. But are there other factors driving increased fertility problems? Could the modern diet or poor nutrition status be partly to blame?

I recently attended an educational session with Jorge Chavarro, the Harvard doc who authored the best-selling book The Fertility Diet. Chavarro’s dietary recommendations are based on data from the Nurse’s Health study, which tracked the diet and health of 18,000 women over the course of several years. Some of those women had children during the years that data was being collected while others tried unsuccessfully to get pregnant.

It’s important to realize that Chavarro didn’t treat any of these women for infertility, nor did he make any nutritional recommendations to them. He simply compared the diets of women who got pregnant to those who couldn’t, to see if he could identify any trends. And he did, in fact, identify several factors that the women who got pregnant had in common.

The program outlined in The Fertility Diet is simply a summary of those factors. The hope is that if you mimic the diets of women who get pregnant, you too will get pregnant. I say the “hope” instead of the “promise” because this claim has never actually been tested in a systematic way. But, with that disclaimer in mind, let’s take a look at the factors associated with greater fertility.

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