More on Full Fat and Fertility
Holly Combe // 1 March 2007
Abby recently posted here about the Times article on a discovery that low-fat milk and yoghurt might precipitate female infertility. While I very much agree with Abby that encouragement for women to enjoy indulgent foods for a change is obviously a good thing, I’d also suggest that any encouragement from the press in their reporting of the results is probably tied up with the socially taken-for-granted importance of individual women’s fertility. In my opinion, not even a triple thick strawberry milkshake with cream can make that liberating. (Don’t forget, people, that the human race is not in danger of dying out!)
As a woman, who definitely doesn’t want to get pregnant right now or in the near future (and, actually, may not ever), I can honestly say I don’t care a jot whether I “fail to ovulate” because I happened to consume a few too many bio-pots over the past eight years. I do appreciate that the results of this study might be worthy of consideration by women who, of their own accord, genuinely want to have a baby within the next decade. It’s just that I also wouldn’t be surprised if this study happens to have a decidedly un-feminist appeal to people who see motherhood as something all women must automatically want. Indeed, I’d say any research into women’s fertility and, especially, the subsequent reporting on it from the media is obviously fraught with assumptions about what society thinks we women should be doing with our own bodies. (I don’t want to be presumptuous about the agendas of the individual researchers involved in the study, as there could be any number of reasons that led them to be interested in undertaking such a project but it certainly isn’t surprising to me that a right wing broadsheet picked up on the story.)
Another angle worth covering is that the reasons for the higher level of fertility reported on in the study may not be entirely positive. For example, one of the comments in response to the article (scroll down to David Hollins) suggests that the American dairy industry “supplements high production methods with the generous use of hormones.” Indeed, in the journal Human Reproduction, Dr. Jorge Chavarro, a nutritionist at the School who conducted the research has admitted:
“there is really not a very clear explanation. It is possible that dairy fat or something along with dairy fat such as the hormones in pregnant cows may be affecting ovulation in women.”
He has also said more study will be needed before conclusions can be drawn.