Soy May Offset BPA’s Effects on Fertility, Study Finds

Research from Harvard found that soy-rich diets may help women conceive.

Tofu Photo

Tofu Photo via Shutterstock

Women trying to get pregnant may want to change their lunch orders, according to a new study.

Researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (HSPH) found that soy may ease infertility caused by BPA in women. BPA (bisphenol A), a compound found in many plastic products and other household goods, has been linked to infertility in multiple studies over the past few years. While the FDA has placed limits on the amount of BPA allowed in products, more than 90 percent of Americans have traces of the chemical in their bodies.

HSPH looked at 239 women who had undergone one or more in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycles at Massachusetts General Hospital between 2007 and 2012, and analyzed their conception rates in relation to BPA exposure and diet. Their results, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, found that women who did not eat soy had higher urinary BPA levels and fewer successful pregnancies. The women who consistently ate soy, however, experienced fewer negative effects from BPA during their IVF cycles.

These findings are interesting, as past studies have suggested that soy consumption can actually decrease male fertility. One study from Mass General found a decrease in sperm quality and concentration in men who ate soy-rich diets. So, ladies, you may want to keep the tofu to yourself.

Jorge Chavarro, an associate professor of nutrition and epidemiology at HSPH and lead author of the study, said in a statement, “Our study highlights the need to consider the possibility that the health effects of environmental chemicals can be modified by lifestyle factors such as diet.”

He suggests that women receiving infertility treatment or struggling to conceive should consider eating more soy. Women may benefit by eating just one extra serving of soy, such as tofu, edamame, or tempeh, every few days, according to the research.