Couples having difficulty conceiving might have a new culprit to blame. A recent study suggests that high cholesterol might contribute to infertility.
In an attempt to better understand the role environmental chemicals and lifestyle play in fertility, researchers enrolled 500 couples who were trying to become pregnant. Since cholesterol is used by the body to create sex hormones, researchers speculated that it might be linked to fertility. The couples, who were not being treated for infertility, ranged in age from 18 to 44.
During the course of the study, investigators drew blood samples in search of free cholesterol. This type of testing is different from traditional cholesterol tests performed by physicians. Instead of measuring the levels of “good” and “bad” cholesterol, researchers measured the total amount of cholesterol present in the blood.
When men had elevated cholesterol and women did not, there was no reported increase in the time it took to achieve pregnancy. But high cholesterol in women was a different story. Whenever a woman’s levels were higher than normal, becoming pregnant took longer (even if the male partner’s levels were fine).
“When men and women both had high cholesterol, it was associated with a much, much longer time to pregnancy compared to couples who had normal cholesterol,” said Dr. Enrique Schisterman, the study’s first author and chief of the epidemiology branch at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
According to Schisterman, it appears that high cholesterol poses a threat to both heart health and fertility. He says the next step in the research is to replicate these findings. He’s also interested in seeing what would happen over multiple cycles with changing cholesterol levels.
By Marianne Hayes