Professor Robert Pickard discusses fertility and nutrition.
Reproduction is so important to the species that we have evolved a body chemistry that will usually sacrifice the wellbeing of the individual for the benefit of the reproductive system. Thus, even malnourished individuals can be highly fertile at the expense of their own survival.
A high nutritional status protects the individual from this effect and maximises fertility potential, provided that the damaging effects of alcohol, smoking and obesity are avoided.
In women, only a relatively small number of cell replication cycles are needed to produce ova and fertility problems are often associated with hormonal imbalance and the chemistry of the membranes that line the reproductive tracts.
In men, millions of cell replication cycles are needed to produce normal quantities of sperm. Therefore, oxidative damage to replicating DNA and poor protein metabolism particularly reduce fertility in men.
In addition, a spermatozoon requires an elegant protein motor that can only function with an extremely efficient battery, considering the very small cell volume that is available to it compared with a single ovum.
Since cows, sheep and pigs share 80% of their genes with humans, red meat with liver and kidney is the most nutrient-dense food that we consume in our balanced diet.
Red-meat animals need most of the molecules that we need and not all of them have yet been identified. In particular, lean red meat is an ideal source of the amino-acid range that is required for the protein chemistry used in gametogenesis.
All the vitamins are needed for a high nutritional status but fertility is likely to be enhanced in older men with additional intakes of vitamins B6, B12, C, D, E and folic acid.
We cannot construct DNA without the B vitamins and B12 is not found in any of the conventional table vegetables.
Unsaturated fatty acids, well represented in grass-fed animals, are also beneficial to the reproductive process.
Iron, magnesium, selenium and zinc are often identified, experimentally, as promotive of fertility.
Since most biochemical pathways require the presence of several vitamins and minerals, it is naïve to think of any one micronutrient as a critical key to the deliverance of fertility.
A lean, red-meat meal with green plant material and low-starch seed germ, to supply additional vitamin C and phytonutrients, is an ideal basis for the promotion of fertility in both men and women.