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Does Soy Affect Fertility?

In another study conducted at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center and Emory University School of Medicine, and reported at the 2004 meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, researchers found that a soy supplement containing twice the level of plant estrogen consumed by Asian women did not alter any aspects of the menstrual cycle or ovarian function in monkeys. The monkeys who were fed the soy supplement did not exhibit any changes in the characteristics of the menstrual cycle, including length, amount of bleeding, or hormone levels. The researchers chose monkeys because they have menstrual cycles similar to those of female humans. Lead researcher Jay Kaplan, Ph.D. believes that consumption of a diet rich in soy probably would not compromise fertility, although further research is necessary to evaluate effects of soy on placental function and on the fetus.

The Bottom Line

Science has yet to agree on a conclusive recommendation regarding soy and fertility. Some research has suggested that women with certain risk factors for infertility may be more sensitive to soy than others, which would explain the contradictory research results. However, if you are experiencing any difficulties conceiving, it's probably a good idea to avoid soy, especially around ovulation, to boost your chances as much as possible. Soy foods differ somewhat in their concentration of isoflavones, but all of the traditional soy foods, such as tofu, soymilk, tempeh and miso, are rich sources of isoflavones, providing about 30 to 40 milligrams per serving. Soy sauce does not contain any phytoestrogens, so you can continue to use this in cooking and as a condiment.

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