Avocados & Fertility

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The Role of Avocados In Fertility & Maternal Health

Research Review.

Yolandi Rademeyer R.D

Maternal nutrition plays a crucial role in influencing fertility, fetal development, birth outcomes, and breast milk composition. During the critical window of time from conception through the initiation of complementary feeding, the nutrition of the mother is the nutrition of the offspring—and a mother’s dietary choices can affect both the early health status and lifelong disease risk of the offspring. 

For pregnant women there is a whole list of nutrients that are needed in a higher (some more than double) quantity than when not pregnant. However pregnant women in the U.S. are known to lack in more than half of this list of nutrients that their bodies require or that’s recommended to sustain a healthy pregnancy and make a healthy baby[1]

The most heavily researched nutrients for fetal health can be narrowed down to a few different groups:

  1. Micronutrients that regulate DNA synthesis, cell division, and growth.
  • Folate
  • B-12
  • vitamin A
  • vitamin D
  • Iron
  • zinc
  1. Nutrients that assist with brain development.
  • Iodine
  • specific fatty acids
  1. Antioxidant nutrients which protect against free radical damage and DNA mutation
  • vitamin A and carotenoids
  • vitamin C
  • vitamin E
  1. Another important class of nutrients for fetal health not currently recognized is regulatory nutrients—such as
  • Fiber
  • potassium

—which may improve maternal health status (i.e., reduce the risk of diseases such as hypertension, dyslipidemia, and gestational diabetes)

When it comes to the fourth trimester, postpartum, maternal intake of vitamin A, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 as well as iodine and fatty acids directly influence the composition of breast milk.

Few fruits or vegetables are rich in both vitamins and fatty acids, with the exception of oil-containing fruits such as avocados, which contain mono unsaturated fatty acids (MUFA).

A look at an average California avocado:

Nutrient Requirement in pregnancy Amount in 1 Avocado (California,136g)
Folate 600-800 mcg higher than a serving of most fruits, tree nuts, and seeds 121 mcg
B12 2.6 mcg
Total Vit A 770 mcg (1300 lactation) 10 mcg

    Beta carotene

900 mcg from suppl
90 mcg from food
Avocado in salads improve carotenoid absorption by 5–15 times [12] 90 mcg

    lutein + zeaxanthin

Absorbed better from avocados than other fruits & veg 360 mcg
Vit D 15 mcg
Iron 27 mg 0.8 mg
Zinc 9-11 mg Plays a crucial part in fertility 0.9 mg
Iodine 220 mcg
Fatty acids : MUFA 13.3 g
Vit C 60-85mg 12 mg
Vit E 10 mg 2.7 mg
Fiber 25-30g According to the 2015 DGAC report, only 8% of women who were pregnant had adequate intake of fiber  9 g
Potassium 2800 mg gestational hypertension decreased significantly with roughly 250–300 mg higher intakes of potassium
Avocados have more potassium by weight than most other common fruits and vegetables
690 mg

DRI reference intakes(National Academic press 2006)/ WHO RDA

 

Reasons why avocados are an ideal fruit for maternal diet:

  • Avocados contain some of the most crucial vitamins  that are vastly under-consumed by most women according to their daily requirements ; vitamin E, folate, and vitamin C [1][2] ,as well as multiple shortfall nutrients, without significantly contributing to any of the 2015 DGA nutrients of concern for overconsumption (i.e., sodium and saturated fat), or to empty calories from added sugars

 

  • Avocados are a source of several non-essential compounds, such as monounsaturated fats (MUFA), lipid-soluble antioxidants, and various phytosterols that are the components of the mediterranean diet that has been scientifically proven :
    • To increase fertility the most as well as improving ovulatory disorders by 70% [3].
      • The researchers found that consuming just 2% of energy from unprocessed MUFA instead of hydrogenated trans fats was associated with less than half of the risk of ovulatory infertility[3]
    • To reduce the chances of preterm delivery by 90%[4]
    • The researchers found that greater intakes of MUFA were related to nearly three and half times higher odds of live birth after embryo transfer, compared to lower intakes of MUFA[5]
    • (Maternal lipid intake is the single most influential factor contributing to breast milk fatty acid composition[6])

They found that MUFA made up approximately 29% of the blood fatty acids of pregnant mothers, 18% of the umbilical cord blood, and 23% of the blood of a newborn infant [7]

 

  • Low GI. Low Glycemic index diets have been proven to increase fertility [8][9], reduce the incidence of birth defects [10], produce a better birth weight and decrease the risk for conditions such as insulin resistance later in life[11]

 

  • Lutein: Lutein is the most abundant carotenoid in avocados [12]; and it is absorbed in greater quantities from avocados relative to other fruits and vegetables with low or no lipid content [13]. Lutein Represents roughly 25% of the carotenoids in breast milk in the first few days of breastfeeding and actually increases to nearly 50% by the end of the first month .

 

Conclusion:  Avocados are a unique nutrient-rich plant-based food that contain many of the critical nutrients for fetal and infant health and development. They fit within the guidelines for a Mediterranean-style diet (i.e., they contain MUFA, fiber, antioxidants, and are low-glycemic), which is known to be beneficial for disease reduction in most populations including pregnant and lactating populations. Based on this review, avocados offer a range of beneficial nutrients that can make a substantial contribution to a nutrient-rich diet when offered as a staple food for the periconceptional period, as well as during Nutrients pregnancy and lactation.

 

How to incorporate more avocados into your diet:

  • Choose fresh avocado over mayonnaise on a sandwich to reduce saturated fats while adding numerous other essential nutrients, potentially bioactive compounds (e.g., lipophilic antioxidants and phytosterols), and fiber.
  • Use an avocado- and yogurt-based dressing in place of many nutrient-poor commercial options in order to avoid added sugars and saturated fats while adding protein, fiber, and fat-soluble vitamins
  • Make avocado & eggs & salmon a staple for breakfast
  • Incorporate avocados into a berry smoothie
  • Make avocado chocolate mousse
  • Pinterest has many creative avocado dishes 🙂

 

Reference:

The Role of Avocados in Maternal Diets during the Periconceptional Period, Pregnancy, and Lactation, Kevin B. Comerford, 2016

 

[1]Otten, J.J.; Hellwig, J.P.; Meyers, L.D. Dietary Reference Intakes: The Essential Guide to Nutrient Requirements; The National Academies Press: Washington, DC, USA, 2006.

 

[2]U.S. Department of Agriculture; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee—Advisory Report to the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Secretary of Agriculture. Available online: http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015- scientific-report/pdfs/scientific-report-of-the-2015-dietary-guidelines-advisory-committee.pdf (accessed on 13 January 2016)

 

[3]Chavarro, J.E.; Rich-Edwards, J.W.; Rosner, B.A.; Willett, W.C. Dietary fatty acid intakes and the risk of ovulatory infertility. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 2007, 85, 231–237. [PubMed]

 

[4]Khoury, J.; Henriksen, T.; Christophersen, B.; Tonstad, S. Effect of a cholesterol-lowering diet on maternal, cord, and neonatal lipids, and pregnancy outcome: A randomized clinical trial. Am. J. Obstet. Gynecol. 2005, 193, 1292–1301. [CrossRef] [PubMed]

 

[5]Chavarro, J.E.; Colaci, D.S.; Afeiche, M.; Gaskins, A.J.; Wright, D.; Toth, T.L.; Hauser, R. Dietary Fat Intake and in-vitro Fertilization Outcomes: Saturated Fat Intake is Associated with Fewer Metaphase 2 Oocytes. Available online: http://humrep.oxfordjournals.org/content/27/suppl_2/ii78.abstract (accessed on 17 August 2015)

 

[6]Innis, S.M. Impact of maternal diet on human milk composition and neurological development of infants. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 2014, 99, 734S–741S. [CrossRef] [PubMed]

 

[7]Agostoni, C.; Marangoni, F.; Stival, G.; Gatelli, I.; Pinto, F.; Rise, P.; Giovannini, M.; Galli, C.; Riva, E. Whole blood fatty acid composition differs in term versus mildly preterm infants: Small versus matched appropriate for gestational age. Pediatr. Res. 2008, 64, 298–302. [CrossRef] [PubMed]

 

[8]Sinska, B.; Kucharska, A.; Dmoch-Gajzler Skate. The Diet in improving fertility in women. Pol. Merkur. Lekarski. 2014, 36, 400–402. [PubMed]

 

[9]Becker, G.F.; Passos, E.P.; Moulin, C.C. Short-term effects of a hypocaloric diet with low glycemic index and low glycemic load on body adiposity, metabolic variables, ghrelin, leptin, and pregnancy rate in overweight and obese infertile women: A randomized controlled trial. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 2015, 102, 1365–1372. [CrossRef] [PubMed]]

 

[10]Parker, S.E.; Werler, M.M.; Shaw, G.M.; Anderka, M.; Yazdy, M.M.; National Birth Defects Prevention Study. Dietary Glycemic Index and the risk of birth defects. Am. J. Epidemiol. 2012, 176, 1110–1120. [CrossRef] [PubMed]]

 

[11]Danielsen, I.; Granstrom, C.; Haldorsson, T.; Rytter, D.; Hammer Bech, B.; Henriksen, T.B.; Vaag, A.A.; Olsen, S.F. Dietary glycemic index during pregnancy is associated with biomarkers of the metabolic syndrome in offspring at age 20 years. PLoS ONE 2013, 8, e64887. [CrossRef]

 

[12]Ashton, O.B.; Wong, M.; McGhie, T.K.; Vather, R.; Wang, Y.; Requejo-Jackman, C.; Ramankutty, P.; Woolf, A.B. Pigments in avocado tissue and oil. J. Agric. Food Chem. 2006, 54, 10151–10158. [CrossRef] [PubMed]

 

[13]Unlu, N.Z.; Bohn, T.; Clinton, S.K.; Schwartz, S.J. Carotenoid absorption from salad and salsa by humans is enhanced by the addition of avocado or avocado oil. J. Nutr. 2005, 135, 431–436. [PubMed]

 

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