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Is My High Cholesterol Causing Fertility Problems?

May 22, 2014

PCOS Fertility Diet


People always ask “Does my high cholesterol affect my chances of infertility?”  and today The Washington Post circulated an article title “Researchers find link between high cholesterol and infertility” that I felt needed some extra attention. Here is a snippet of the article:

[su_quote cite=”Washington Post url=””]Couples with high cholesterol have more difficulty conceiving than those with normal levels of the substance in their blood, researchers reported Tuesday, in what they called the first study to link fertility difficulties to the fat molecule commonly associated with cardiovascular problems. In a study of 501 couples who were trying to conceive, the time it took for the woman to become pregnant was longest if both partners had high cholesterol. When the woman alone had high cholesterol, pregnancy was also delayed.

A man with high cholesterol did not significantly delay pregnancy if the woman’s cholesterol reading was within the normal range, according to the study, conducted by the National Institutes of Health, the University at Buffalo and Emory University in Atlanta. Cholesterol is critical to the production of hormones such as estrogen in women and testosterone in men, as well as sperm, said Enrique Schisterman, chief of the epidemiology branch of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, who led the study. Too much or too little cholesterol can interfere with that process, he said. “We need optimal amounts,” Schisterman said. “An excess sometimes creates an imbalance of too much hormones, or too little hormones.

You have to have a sweet spot.” In addition to the link between cholesterol and fertility, Schisterman noted that the male’s role in conception difficulties is noteworthy. Both partners who want to have children should focus on living healthy lifestyles and keeping cholesterol levels down, said Schisterman, who devoted his career to fertility research after he and his wife struggled to have children. They have one child born through in vitro fertilization and another who is adopted, he said.[/su_quote]

Yes for sure!  On a one to one basis, high cholesterol will be correlated with infertility.  Since it is not a high fat or high cholesterol diet that produces high circulating cholesterol levels but rather high insulin, then high cholesterol and PCOS would be naturally correlated as well resulting in higher infertility from ovulation dysfunction in these patients.

These comments by the expert interviewed in the article are so representative of the party line.  He makes it sound like high and low cholesterol cause hormone production problems, a fact that has never been proven or even suggested really.  It just falls into the classic cholesterol theory that says if it’s high it’s bad and that people should somehow control the level.  Conventional wisdom would tell those patients to go on a low fat low cholesterol diet high in carbohydrates that stimulates more insulin and will result in higher cholesterol.

It’s a never ending story with the establishment.  The correlation simply points to metabolic dysfunction which we have in PCOS and we know PCOS is associated with infertility.  There are however many individuals who don’t meet strict study criteria for PCOS but clearly have metabolic dysfunction, a fact that would clearly explain why the increase in cholesterol would be a “separate” risk from PCOS.  It’s all in the conclusions and the traditional bias always wins out in the interpretations.

Since we know diet and nutrition play an intricate role in fertility health I have put together a recommend diet to help with Insulin levels. Here is the link to part 1 of the PCOD/ Insulin Resistance diet. If you’re looking for more diet and nutrition tips for fertility and PCOS health keep checking our blog for recipes and more!

-Dr. Michael Fox

PCOS/PCOD Insulin Resistance Diet 



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