Parents-to-be undergoing fertility treatments may be surprised to learn that the humble soybean could help. New research suggests that consuming soy could reduce harmful effects that the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) has on the likelihood of pregnancy in women undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF). BPA is a chemical found in many common plastic household products like water bottles, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 96% of Americans have BPA in their bodies. Animal studies have found that BPA is linked to reproductive disorders and that soy may interfere with BPA’s damaging effect on cells. The new study was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, and evaluated data from 239 women, aged 18 to 45, who enrolled in the Environment and Reproductive Health Study between 2007 and 2012 and had undergone at least one cycle of IVF. The women filled out a food-frequency questionnaire to assess their intake of soy and other foods at the beginning of the study and provided two urine samples for BPA testing during each IVF cycle. Researchers analyzed the data, along with information about pregnancy outcomes from the women’s medical records, to determine if soy intake changed BPA’s negative effect on IVF results. Here is what the researchers found:
Rising concentrations of BPA were linked to decreasing rates of live births per IVF cycle in women who did not eat soy, but BPA concentrations did not appear to affect live birth rates in women who ate soy.
The most dramatic difference was seen in the women with the highest BPA concentrations: those who ate soy foods had a live birth rate of 49%, while those who did not eat soy foods had a live birth rate of 17%.
While more research is needed to understand this relationship, it is recommended that women who are trying to become pregnant reduce their exposure to BPA by saying "no thanks" to paper receipts, avoiding canned foods and sodas, and limiting the use of plastics for storing, preparing, and consuming beverages and foods, especially when they’re hot. You can also safely include soy in your diet, but it’s important to note that other research has found that high soy-intake may create a different fertility hurdle—reduced ovulation. So, boost your soy intake sensibly by including modest amounts of grilled marinated tofu or spiced soy beans.
Source: Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism