Soy foods have been consumed for thousands of years, and many studies report a number of health benefits associated with its intake. Research has proposed a connection between soy isoflavones and fertility, suggesting that the consumption of soy products like soy milk or tofu can increase the chances of conceiving. Soy isoflavones present in soy foods may be able to bind to estrogen receptors on cells in the body, possibly inducing ovulation and increasing the chances of becoming pregnant. Although soy isoflavones and fertility have been positively correlated in a number of studies, some research suggests that overconsumption of soy foods can decrease fertility.
Some studies involving nutrition and its impact on fertility show that soy isoflavones, chemical compounds in soy foods, may help increase fertility in some people by stimulating estrogen and ovulation. Soy isoflavones and fertility research shows that soy acts as a phytoestrogen, weakly binding to estrogen receptors on cells. Researchers believe that soy isoflavones are similar in structure to natural estrogen, a hormone responsible for the secondary sex characteristics in females which aids in ovulation and fertility in women. By binding to the estrogen receptors in the brain, the cells supposedly release more follicle stimulating hormone, which aid in maturing follicles, releasing estrogen and triggering luteinizing hormone to stimulate ovulation.
When women have trouble conceiving, some doctors and dietitians recommend soy foods for the isoflavone content. The consumption of soy foods seem to have a larger effect in women in regards to increasing fertility, yet some research suggests it may be helpful for men. These studies on soy isoflavones and fertility in men seem to have conflicting results, yet they still raise the possibility of helping some men increase their sperm quality. The exact effects are currently unknown, and more research is needed to determine if soy can be used in future fertility treatments.
The overconsumption of soy foods has been linked to decreased fertility in some studies. Since soy isoflavones are similar in structure to estrogen and help release excess estrogen, it has also been proposed that soy may increase breast cancer risk. These studies are also conflicting, with no conclusive answers to suggest the avoidance or a diet with a moderate intake of soy foods like soy milk, tofu or soy sauce is harmful.