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

37 thoughts on “Chance of having twins can be modified by diet

  1. with your roots and herbs you have enveloped my frown face with smile, slung to stand,tube tie burned alive, i used your herbs and root according to the instruction given it materialized,i have conceive now and delivered a baby boy,from letter A-z can’t speak how joyful i’m. contact him via on facebook (Oduduwa Ajakaye)

  2. my sons wife is 35 years old and I was diagnosed with poor ovarian reserve and very bad prognosis of having a baby with my own eggs. I was even given the option to consider donor eggs. That was around july 2014. I was absolutely devastated with the news and I arranged an IVF for November 2014 and it failed also, given that I had nothing to lose, I contacted on facebook (Oduduwa Ajakaye) and he send me his herbal product,. Believe it or not… I am already pregnant!

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  4. 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.

  5. 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

  6. I’m now not sure where you are getting your info, but great topic. I must spend some time finding out more or working out more. Thank you for magnificent info I was searching for this information for my mission.

  7. 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

  8. 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.

    • 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.

    • 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!

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