Intake of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages By Both Partners Appears To Harm Fertility Interview with:


Dr. Hatch

Dr. Elizabeth E. Hatch, PhD
Professor, Epidemiology
School of Public Health
Boston University What is the background for this study?  

Response: We are conducting a large, ongoing, preconception cohort study, PREgnancy STudy Online or PRESTO   in the U.S. and Canada of couples who are planning a pregnancy.  The overall goal of the study is to identify factors that affect fertility, measured by the time taken to conceive, and factors that affect the risk of miscarriage.  Since many women are postponing pregnancy until the later reproductive years, we would like to help find behavioral and environmental factors that might either help or harm fertility so that couples can avoid the stress and expense of infertility workups and treatment.  As part of the larger study, we looked at consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) by both the male and female partner, since some previous research suggested that sugar-sweetened beverages might harm semen quality and ovulation.

For this analysis, we included 3,828 women aged 21 to 45 and 1,045 of their male partners. We asked both males and females (in separate baseline questionnaires) about their usual consumption of SSBs over the last month, and we had a drop-down menu with names of individual sodas (both sugar-sweetened and diet) and energy drinks.  We also asked general questions about the frequency of fruit juice and ‘sports drink’ consumption.   In our analysis, we controlled for multiple factors that might ‘confound’ the associations, such as body mass index, education, caffeine, smoking and alcohol consumption, as well as a measure of overall diet quality. What are the main findings?

Response: The main findings of the study were that intake of sugar-sweetened sodas and energy drinks by both partners appeared to harm fertility.  In contrast, we found no association between level of fruit juice consumption or diet sodas and fertility.  Overall, consumption of 1 or more sugar-sweetened sodas per day was associated with a 25% reduction in ‘fecundability’, or the average monthly probability of conception among females, compared with those who did not drink any sugar-sweetened sodas.  The equivalent amount for males resulted in a 33% lower fecundability.  The findings were consistent after controlling for multiple variables such as BMI and caffeine.   We also found even stronger reductions for energy drinks, but there were relatively few consumers of these drinks so our findings were more unstable. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: It might be prudent to limit intake of sugar-sweetened sodas and energy drinks if you are thinking about planning to become pregnant.  We found associations for both male and female intake, and there is some support for the findings from previous research.  Even if it turns out that future research does not support our findings, consumption of these beverages is linked to many other health problems such as diabetes and obesity and they don’t provide much nutritional value. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: It would be interesting to see if the findings hold up in other populations, especially in countries where most sodas are sweetened with sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup, which is the most common sweetener added to sodas in the U.S.  Also, it would be interesting to have some more laboratory and animal research on this topic to try to elucidate the biologic mechanisms underlying these associations. 


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Epidemiology. 2018 Jan 30. doi: 10.1097/EDE.0000000000000812. [Epub ahead of print]

Intake of Sugar-sweetened Beverages and Fecundability in a North American Preconception Cohort.

Hatch EE1, Wesselink AK1, Hahn KA1, Michiel JJ1, Mikkelsen EM2, Sorensen HT2, Rothman KJ1, Wise LA1.


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