Chance of having twins can be modified by diet


An obstetrician well known for his care of and research into multiple-birth pregnancies has found that dietary changes can affect a woman’s chances of having twins, and that her overall chance is determined by a combination of diet and heredity.

By comparing the twinning rate of vegan women, who consume no animal products, with that of women who do eat animal products, Gary Steinman, MD, PhD, an attending physician at Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Medical Center in New Hyde Park, NY, found that the women who consume animal products, specifically dairy, are five times more likely to have twins. The study is published in the May 2006 issue of the Journal of Reproductive Medicine, available May 20.

The Lancet recently published an invited comment by Dr. Steinman on dietary influences on twinning in the journal’s May 6 issue.

The culprit may be insulin-like growth factor (IGF), a protein that is released from the liver of animals — including humans — in response to growth hormone, circulates in the blood and makes its way into the animal’s milk. IGF increases the sensitivity of the ovaries to follicle stimulating hormone, thereby increasing ovulation. Some studies also suggest that IGF may help embryos survive in the early stages of development. The concentration of IGF in the blood is about 13 percent lower in vegan women than in women who consume dairy.

The twinning rate in the United States has increased significantly since 1975, about the time assisted reproductive technologies (ART) were introduced. The intentional delay of childbearing has also contributed to the increase of multiple-birth pregnancies, since older women are more likely to have twins even without ART.

“The continuing increase in the twinning rate into the 1990′s, however, may also be a consequence of the introduction of growth-hormone treatment of cows to enhance their milk and beef production,” said Dr. Steinman.

In the current study, when Dr. Steinman compared the twinning rates of women who ate a regular diet, vegetarian diet with dairy, and vegan diet, he found that the vegan women had twins at only one-fifth the rate of women who commonly do not exclude milk from their diets.

In addition to a dietary influence on IGF levels, there is a genetic link in numerous species of animals, including humans. In cattle, regions of the genetic code that control the rate of twinning have been detected in close proximity to the IGF gene. Researchers have found through large population studies of African American, Caucasian and Asian women that blood IGF levels are greatest among African Americans and lowest in Asians. Some women are just genetically programmed to make more IGF than others. Twinning rates in these demographic groups parallel the IGF levels.

“This study shows for the first time that the chance of having twins is affected by both heredity and environment, or in other words, by both nature and nurture,” said Dr. Steinman. These findings are similar to those observed in cows by other researchers, namely that a woman’s chance of having twins appears to correlate directly with her blood level of insulin-like growth factor.

“Because multiple gestations are more prone to complications such as premature delivery, congenital defects and pregnancy-induced hypertension in the mother than singleton pregnancies, the findings of this study suggest that women contemplating pregnancy might consider substituting meat and dairy products with other protein sources, especially in countries that allow growth hormone administration to cattle,” said Dr. Steinman.

Dr. Steinman has been studying factors that cause or contribute to twinning ever since he delivered a rare set of identical quadruplets in 1997 at LIJ Medical Center. His most recent study published in this month’s Journal of Reproductive Medicine on fraternal, or dizygotic, twinning is the seventh in a series. The other six studies, published in the same journal, focused on identical, or monozygotic, twinning. Some of his findings are summarized below.

Previous twinning studies

Dr. Steinman found that women who become pregnant while breastfeeding are nine times more likely to conceive twins than women who are not breastfeeding at the time of conception. He also confirmed findings by others that identical twin sets are more often female than male, especially in conjoined twin sets, and that monozygotic twin sets are more likely to miscarry than dizygotic sets. Dr. Steinman also found evidence through fingerprint analysis that as the number of fetuses in a monozygotic set increases, so does the level of physical diversity among them. In his most recent study of the mechanisms of twinning prior to the new study, Dr. Steinman confirmed that use of in vitro fertilization (IVF) methods increases the incidence of monozygotic twinning — where the transfer and/or implantation of two embryos results in three infants — and he proposed that adding more calcium or reducing the chelating agent ethylenediamine tetraacetic acid (EDTA) in the IVF incubation media might decrease the unwanted complication.

From North Shore-Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Health System


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33 Responses to Chance of having twins can be modified by diet

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  2. Pa mommy of 3 November 8, 2012 at 11:58 am #

    I was just pregnant with identical twins this past June I lost one at 6 weeks the other had a slow heart beat lost that one too at 10 weeks. On my middle childs birthday. So six years erlier i was in hospital giving birth, fast foward six years & im losing a baby. We are now starting to try again.
    My first child was a c- section had the next two vbac. I have been watching my diet trying not to skip meals, eating yams, rasins, nuts, red meat & green veggies. I should be ovulating tomorrow so wish us luck. I’ll be back with an update.
    God willing it will be good news! Best of luck to all of you trying to concieve! Keep taking your prenatals to prepare your body ahead of time.

  3. B Hall September 15, 2012 at 7:51 pm #

    Not every mother wants to have a c section. I had two and neither were by choice. After being in natural labor for 39 hours with my first and developing eclampsia with life threatening seizures the doctor did an emergency Cesarian and saved my life. Yes, animals have babies naturally all the time. Animals also die during childbirth sometimes too. Sometimes natural childbirth just isn’t an option. It doesn’t make you any less of a mom to have a cesarian.

  4. NTOMbi August 16, 2012 at 5:07 am #

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  5. Jennian Cosca June 25, 2012 at 1:56 am #

    Women are born with all the eggs they will ever have, unlike men who manufacture fresh sperm throughout most of their lives. As women age, their bodies produce more Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH). FSH is one of the hormones responsible for controlling ovulation. Because of the increased levels of FSH, older women are more likely to release two or more eggs (ova) each monthly cycle. If these eggs are fertilized resulting in pregnancy, fraternal twins are possible. Some people believe this is Nature’s way of outwitting a woman’s biological clock. To learn more on how to conceive twins visit http://tohavetwins.com/

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  9. lauren zuma January 24, 2012 at 9:30 am #

    hi ladies!i have 2 kids,both c-section 10 nd 7,1st csection cause was thru my placenta abrupting,nd dey jst gave me a 2nd after dat,i thort dat was da procedure.been married 4 ova a year nw nd still cant conceive,havin problems with cysts constantly poppin up on either side of both my ovaries!need some advise pls!would love 2 have twins

  10. Pink Mommy February 27, 2011 at 12:39 am #

    Please cite your sources for the statistics you published. They do not seem valid to me.

  11. Another mom December 29, 2010 at 10:42 am #

    To A Mom:

    I had a twin VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) after one previous cesarean section, in a hospital in Omaha, NE. You just have to find the right care provider for a natural birth with your twins. Good luck on the hunt!

    To everyone else: Having twins is very very hard, even when you have babies that eat well and sleep at the same time. Be careful what you wish for, and be grateful for what you get.

  12. A mom December 29, 2010 at 8:32 am #

    I hope to have twins god willing but is it required for moms who have twins to have a c-section or can they have them naturally. I have already had a c-section but they told me that I can only have 3 c-sections because the health risks increase as you get older.

  13. Nneka Joyce chidozie duru November 16, 2010 at 8:26 am #

    well said all.

  14. Joyce duru November 16, 2010 at 8:06 am #

    Dear, we may make our plans but God has the final say. True prayers on the sex of the baby before conception can give one one’s heart desire. It has worked for me!

  15. Joyce duru September 8, 2010 at 5:09 pm #

    God speed!

  16. Joyce duru September 8, 2010 at 5:02 pm #

    I believd that God is the giver of chidren. He fashioned the foetus in the mother’s womb. Him alone blesses those He would with multiple births. If He did not sanction, conception of twins would never take place!

  17. Steven Beasley August 28, 2010 at 10:54 am #

    as a side info: BabyGenderChooser.com has some good tips on conceiving a boy or a girl.

  18. Anonymous May 25, 2010 at 9:41 pm #

    This study is actually talking about mostly monozygotic twins, meaning that the twins would be from the same egg and therefore have the exact same genetic make up.

    You are hoping for dizygotic twins, which is another way of saying fraternal twins. They come from two eggs and pretty much the only way that this happens is if you have a gene for over-active production and release of eggs. But, this would show in your family history.

  19. Anonymous April 14, 2010 at 6:42 pm #

    More food for thought: many of the women I know who’ve had C-sections have needed them because they had narrow pelvises. Because of this, the next generation is likely to have a higher percentage of this problem. I’m certainly not saying that we should allow anything bad to happen to these women and babies, but it does seem like we need to think to the future as well.

  20. Anonymous March 25, 2010 at 1:29 pm #

    but america has a 50% C-section rate and the highest rate of mother morbidity! Our own government says that when the C-section rate is over 15% there is a serious problem with healthcare so obviously something is very wrong here…yes it is a great modern way to save babies IF ABSOLUTELY NECISSARY! Many women are led to believe it is a matter of life and death when really it is the unpredictablity of the birth process that agrivates our medical teams into pushing for a C-section. Sometimes it is best to leave nature alone it has worked fine for thousands of years and it works fine else where in the world it seems that just America is suffering from so many birth related deaths because of the way we deal with the birthing process. If you have had a C-section in the past contrary to popular belief you do not have to have another with your next child. Please think heavily about this topic before hand your doctor knows that since you have consented once to will be easy to convince you into doing it again, making his job easier and your medical bill higher…not to mention you miss out actively participating in some of the most precious moments of your babies life because you are full of drugs in a recovery room its not fair to either of you.

  21. Anonymous March 9, 2010 at 8:27 pm #

    I have read elsewhere that a higher percentage of body fat increases your chances of having twins. I know that what you eat can potentially have an effect on whether or not you conceive twins but im not sure that “dieting” increases your chances or not.

  22. Anonymous February 25, 2010 at 10:57 pm #

    Most of us would never choose a C… BUT I most likely wouldn’t have survived, and my 2 beautiful boys wouldn’t be here if it was were not for modern medicine and a chance at an emergency C. Both boys were born that way, and I am so happy to have them safe and happy!

  23. Anonymous December 15, 2009 at 9:02 pm #

    Don’t worry i have had 4 children by c- section and am planning on having another but would love twins.

  24. Raquel November 13, 2009 at 9:24 am #

    Diet can help you conceive twins and help in losing body fat. I used the EODD Diet and had the added benefit of losing body fat.

  25. Anonymous August 14, 2009 at 6:47 am #

    “WHY are you having c-sections? And why can you have only one more? All mammals except modern day humans go off alone to give birth. Have your next baby natural, that means say no to a hospital.”

    Maybe she had complications stupid. Why dont you find out the facts before you tell people what to do.
    Maybe because we are more advanced than other mammals…we can actually take the choice of reducing the risk of death whilst giving birth. But hey…actually lets go back to how we did it when we were cavemen.

  26. Anonymous August 2, 2009 at 7:15 pm #

    hello i have 2 kids already both were born by c-section so they tell me that i can only have one more c-sec. so i wnat to get preg. soon but i’m trying to hve twins because my perfect family is with 4 children so if you find something else please let me know.

  27. Anonymous August 10, 2009 at 10:50 pm #

    WHY are you having c-sections? And why can you have only one more? All mammals except modern day humans go off alone to give birth. Have your next baby natural, that means say no to a hospital.

  28. Anonymous June 8, 2009 at 6:46 pm #

    I have 4 children and I have been trying for nearly a year to conceive. My youngest is 6 my oldest is 15 and we are hoping to have a few more children before the risks of complications jump too high. I have always wanted 8 children but at this point I don’t see that happening unless we have back to back twins! I am hoping whenever we do conceive we will be lucky enough to conceive twins while I am brestfeeding. Either way I will be so grateful to have as many as we can care for.

  29. Anonymous July 12, 2009 at 5:58 am #

    dear you,

    I am a mother of 3 kids (8, 3 1/2, and 2 years old). I deeply want to have 2 more, and I wish they be TWINS, because I like having children, I love children. I check on the web if I could find some advice, some tools, some food that can help twinning. I would not like to« twin medically».
    But I found on the web the following link that I invite you to check.
    http://www.ehow.com/how_2109825_conceive-twins.html
    However, if you find something else, plz let us know it. Hopefully we’ll get it.

  30. Anonymous May 3, 2009 at 1:58 am #

    I am planning on getting pregnant and I want two children. Hopefully I can kill two birds with one stone!!!!!!!!!!!!

  31. Anonymous February 12, 2009 at 1:57 pm #

    This is very interesting, great information. I found this article also comes up with a fe wother ways to increase the chances of having twins: http://www.ehow.com/how_2109825_conceive-twins.html

  32. Anonymous March 10, 2009 at 12:54 am #

    did you by chance have twins?

  33. Anonymous August 22, 2008 at 11:24 pm #

    My husband and I are praying we have a boy and a girl, Amen. :)

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