Looking to start a family? Avoid this food and drink

Looking to start a family? Avoid this food and drink

A woman’s choice of sweets and tea might affect her chances of starting a family, according to a new study from the University of Illinois. In fact, researchers found that a compound in licorice lowers the production of estrogen, which is important for fertility.

The compound isoliquiritigenin, commonly found in licorice candies and herbal teas, reduces by 50 percent the production of aromatase, an enzyme used to help the body make estrogen.

While the research was in mice, Dr. Biren Shah, an OB/GYN on staff at Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, Ill., says that the study results are compelling enough to warrant further research.

“Lower levels of estrogen can certainly lead to problems with reproduction, whether in lab animals or humans,” says Dr. Shah. “And, cutting aromatase in half in humans would almost certainly negatively impact estrogen production and fertility.”

Dr. Shah also suggests that lower estrogen levels could potentially cause greater harm to overall health.

“Estrogen isn’t just all about reproduction,” he says. “Proper levels play a role in healthy hearts, brains, bones and more. And, if estrogen is down, it could lead to serious problems in these areas, as well.”

Licorice root and purified forms of isoliquiritigenin, or “iso”, are used in candies, teas, herbal supplements and even flavoring in tobacco products. Some other studies have found that the root has anti-cancer properties for some types of breast, prostate and colon cancer.

Dr. Shah says that the properties that allow iso to be effective against cancer might also be the cause of the possible fertility issues.

“We know that drugs that limit the production of aromatase are used to treat a number of cancers that respond to estrogen,” he says. “And those drugs can have an effect on fertility, so, iso could be having the same effect here.”

Talking regularly with a physician, says Dr. Shah, is the best way to become informed on some of the things that can positively and negatively affect fertility.

“For some women, tipping the scales just a little bit can be the difference between becoming pregnant, or not,” he says. “Working with a physician to stack the odds in your favor is a good thing to do for those looking to start a family.”

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About the Author

Nate Llewellyn
Nate Llewellyn

Nate Llewellyn, health enews contributor, is a manager of public affairs at Advocate Medical Group. Nate began his career as a journalist and builds daily on his nearly 20 years of writing experience. He spends most of his free time following his wife to their two sons’ various activities.