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Does eating organic food help you conceive? The debate continues.


It’s widely accepted that eating organic food is better for health in general – there’s no doubt about that. But do the benefits of organic food extend to boosting your fertility, and helping you conceive? In this article, we’ll weigh up the arguments by various experts.

The case for organic food

In October last year, the JAMA Internal Medicine journal released a paper which was authored by researchers from Harvard; this paper claimed that pesticide residue on fruits and vegetables adversely affect pregnancy outcomes.

The paper’s findings were based on surveys completed by 325 women who were, at that point in time, undergoing treatment at a Boston fertility center. After going through the data, the researchers concluded that women who ate non-organic produce were 18% less likely to get pregnant through assisted technologies, and 26% less likely to give birth. The authors recommended that women who were trying to conceive via assisted technologies switch to eating organic, wherever possible.

This study generated plenty of media mentions, with New York Times, CNN, Reuters, WebMD, and CBS News running stories on how eating organic fruits and vegetables is preferable for women undergoing assisted conception. In addition to this, several stakeholders with vested interests (such as organic interest groups) started referencing a “doctored” version of this study, inflating the results to apply to all women trying to get pregnant (as opposed to those who are specifically using assisted technologies).


The case against organic food

Whilst the study mentioned above might be convincing to the layperson, several experts have put forth their two cents on why it is problematic. For one thing, the study was not peer-reviewed or reproduced; on top of that, the researchers simply estimated the pesticide levels present in each participant based on their recollections of what they had eaten (instead of actually measuring their pesticide levels, which would have been a far more accurate method).

Amongst those who questioned the study was Terence Bradshaw from the University of Vermont, who wrote at length about why the study was flawed. As Bradshaw puts it, the authors ran several correlation tests, which by design only point to associations between data points, without testing for causation. In other words, women not eating organic food and being less likely to get pregnant through assisted technology could merely be correlated, and there could be a third factor or underlying cause which influences these two phenomenons.


A final word on organic food for pregnant women

Seeing as the study in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal has been heavily criticized, and there haven’t been any other papers that speak about the benefits of organic food for fertility, we can’t say for sure that organic food does help women who are trying to conceive.

If you’re already incorporating organic produce into your diet, by all means, continue to do so – especially where the Dirty Dozen is concerned (if it’s the first time you’re encountering this term, it basically refers to a list of produce which are known to contain notoriously high levels of pesticides.) Otherwise, there’s no need to go out of your way to switch to a strict organic diet – it’s much more beneficial to simply ensure that you have a varied diet, and eat all foods in moderation.

Fertility consultation with BeNatural’s fertility coach, Marie Otsuka

If you and your partner would like to learn more about conceiving, come down for a 45-minute consultation with Marie Otsuka, BeNatural’s fertility coach. In this session, Marie will seek to understand the couple’s situation, and offer insights she’s gained through her 10 years of experience in working with infertile Singaporeans. Slots are limited and on a first come first serve basis; contact us here to schedule an appointment!

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