Can eating yams really give you twins?

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By Bimpe Adea
If you are a woman of a certain age, better think twice before you down those plates of yam, or you may get pregnant with twins. Did you know that a small town in Oyo State called Igbo-Ora has the highest number of twin births in the whole world?

Population experts say that the small town of about 100,000 people in the south-west has the world’s highest twinning rate. In fact, on the road going into the town there’s a large stone plinth which welcomes visitors to “the land of twins”.

While recent accurate figures are basically nonexistent, a study conducted by a British gynecologist, Patrick Nylander, between 1972 and 1982 recorded on average of 45 to 50 sets of twins per 1000 live births in the south-west. A more current survey estimates a twin birth in 1 of 22 births; this rate is about 4 times higher than anywhere else in the world.

This is quite a remarkable phenomenon, but nobody seems to be quite sure why this town should be more twin prone than anywhere else on earth. However researchers have long speculated that it’s the diet that can help explain this statistics, specifically the daily diet of yam!!!

What?!! Yes, yams. Apparently it contains phytoestrogen, an estrogen compound that increases a woman’s Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH), and may induce a higher rate of ovulation. This chemical component is concentrated in the peelings from yam, and it has been linked to a hyper ovulation—the release of more than one egg, which usually leads to twin pregnancies.This theory has me completely baffled.

Obviously yam is a staple in every Nigerian home, but yam is central to Yoruba people’s diet. We eat it boiled; fried, roasted, pounded, and dried yam is grounded to make amala.So can yam really be attributed to the high rate of twin births in the south-west? Many scientists believe so, and women trying to conceive in western parts of the world are desperately looking for yams in order to boost their chances of having twins.

Double pregnancies occur either when a fertilized egg is implanted in the uterine wall and develops into a zygote which splits into two embryos, in which case the offspring results in “identical twins;” or when two eggs are produced and fertilized and implanted in the uterine wall separately, in which case the offspring results in “fraternal” or “non-identical twins.”

Identical twins are a random event that happens in about 0.3% of pregnancies throughout the globe. Fraternal twins, on the other hand, are a different issue. Incidence rates vary from region to region and average to about 2.3% in the world.

That number is higher in the West and will probably keep rising due to the advent and increasing use of fertility drugs and in vitro fertilization, both of which raise the chance of double or even multiple ovulations.

Also, the recent trend of older moms has increased the rate of multiples.As women age, their pregnancies are more likely to yield twins. Older women have the FSH hormone present in their bodies due to natural changes that come with age.

There are many different reasons why a couple might want to have twins. Some women only want to go through one pregnancy so having twins gives you a full complete family all in one shot. Some women have trouble conceiving, a twin pregnancy may likely be her only one. While some people like me are just simply fascinated by twins. If you are one of these women you might want to get a yam cookbook.

I’m no genetic scientist, but I say it’s worth a try if you really want multiples. At least consciously incorporating more yams in your diet does you no harm, and besides it’s better than some dangerous tips advocating progesterone creams, and the prescription drug clomidto conceive twins.

Obviously this is not a fool-proof way to try and have twins as nobody knows how much yam one has to eat. Also, it’s uncertain whether the effects of eating yam on a woman trying to conceive are immediate or cumulative. Most importantly, nobody has provided any specific explanation or medical evidence that could prove that yam consumption can cause multiple births.It’s pure speculation.

While eating a plate full of yams every day may be just plain silly but at least it has no real negative effects, and there is no harm in trying. You may just get lucky.

 

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