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High-Protein Diet May Hurt Pregnancy Chances

But Findings Must Be Confirmed in Humans

Mice Don't Eat Steak

Mice, being herbivores, normally eat very little protein, and Gardner cautions against making too many assumptions about the impact of a high-protein diet on human fertility.

Atkins Nutritionals spokesman Stuart Trager, MD, is more emphatic in making the point.

"I think the one thing that can be said from this research is that mice who want to get pregnant should not be following this diet," he tells WebMD. "But extrapolating this to humans, who are not herbivores by nature, crosses a line that I think is rather inappropriate."

Trager, who serves as medical director for Atkins, says women who are pregnant or nursing should not be on a low-carbohydrate diet or any other weight loss plan without medical supervision. As for women who are trying to become pregnant, he points to studies showing that a low-carbohydrate diet may actually help those with a particular type of infertility to conceive. Women with the condition known as polycystic ovary syndrome tend to be overweight and have insulin resistance.

"The benefits of controlling carbohydrates in the treatment of this condition are becoming more recognized," he says.

But infertility expert Amos Grunebaum, MD, says, as a rule, women who want to become pregnant should eat like they already are. In other words, they should eat a nutritionally balanced diet, take a multivitamin that includes folic acid, and avoid alcohol. Those who want to lose weight should also exercise daily, he says.

"Any weight loss diet that restricts whole food groups should be avoided," he tells WebMD. "Eating a well-balanced diet is very important during pregnancy and when a woman is trying to conceive. There are plenty of diets out there that allow you to do this and still lose weight."

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