Thursday, March 1, 2007

Want a bun in the oven? Then go have a big bowl of ice cream. Add a little whipped cream, too. Harvard University announced yesterday that drinking whole milk and eating high-fat ice cream appears to benefit women who want to get pregnant.

Skim milk may not be baby-friendly: The study found that women who dutifully ate two or more daily servings of low-fat dairy products each day increased their risk of ovulation-related infertility by a whopping 85 percent. An extra serving per day increased their risk by another 11 percent.

Women who scarfed down a single serving of high-fat dairy food every day actually reduced their risk of infertility by 27 percent. The study lauded ice cream in particular: Women who ate the genuine creamy variety two or three times a week reduced their risk of infertility by 38 percent.

“Clarifying the role of dairy foods intake on fertility is particularly important since the current dietary guidelines for Americans recommend adults consume three or more daily servings of low-fat milk or equivalent products,” said Dr. Jorge Chavarro of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard’s School of Public Health.

“It’s a strategy that may well be deleterious for women planning to become pregnant,” Dr. Chavarro said.

These are joyous findings, perhaps, to ladies who have suffered through yogurt when their minds were really on pints of Chunky Monkey.

“Who knew?” said Sean Greenwood, spokesman for Vermont-based Ben & Jerry’s, manufacturer of the aforementioned ice cream flavor, which contains bananas, walnuts, chocolate shards and 18 grams of fat per half-cup serving.

“We support American moms and moms-to-be completely. Maybe we’ll develop a new flavor out of this news — Stork Chunk might work. Of course, we’d add a disclaimer that no storks were hurt in the process,” Mr. Greenwood joked.

Others were equally enthusiastic.

“Everyone loves ice cream, and we are excited there may be additional benefits in our delicious frozen treats,” said Ken Kimmel of Massachusetts-based Baskin-Robbins, which recently introduced a new flavor called Love Potion No. 31, which boasts white chocolate, raspberry, chocolate bits and 14 grams of fat per 14-ounce scoop.

Meanwhile, women pining for a baby can follow a doctor’s orders with a clear conscience.

“They should consider changing low-fat dairy foods for high-fat dairy foods by swapping skimmed milk for whole milk and eating ice cream, not low-fat yogurt,” Dr. Chavarro said.

He evaluated health and lifestyle records of 18,555 women between 24 and 42 who either became pregnant or were trying to conceive between 1991 and 1999. Those who indulged in whole-fat dairy foods clearly had more luck in the baby department. Dr. Chavarro explained that fat-soluble substances found in the milk and ice creams improve ovarian function. Lactose, phosphorus, vitamin D and calcium do not play a role, he found.

But Dr. Chavarro cautions women not to go overboard.

“Once they have become pregnant, they should probably switch back to low-fat dairy foods as it is easier to limit saturated fat,” he said.

Dairy products may play another role in pregnancy. According to research published in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine in May by Dr. Gary Steinman, an attending physician at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, women who consume animal products — specifically dairy — are five times more likely to have twins.

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