Many men and women receive nutritional advice while trying to get pregnant, especially when infertility is suspected. While some argue that there’s little truth to the age-old adage, “You are what you eat”, new research presented by the European Society of Reproduction and Embryology suggests differently. According to a study published this year by professor N. Yiannakouris of Harokopio University in Athens, a Mediterranean diet could be beneficial to women undergoing IVF.
244 women aged 22-41 were assessed in this food study, during which time they were asked questions regarding what they ate throughout their in vitro fertilization experience. The women were healthy and had a BMI under 30 kg/m2. What researchers learned was that those who enjoyed fresh lean foods like vegetables, fish, legumes, olive oil, and fruit rather than red meat had up to a 68% higher chance of success with their assisted reproduction treatments. Women who didn’t follow the Mediterranean diet or strayed from it had a lower success rate.
The study, which was published in the Journal of Human Reproduction, took place at the Assisted Conception Unity in Greece, where IVF treatment was administered. 229 women had one embryo implanted in their womb, 138 of which were successful, culminating in 104 confirmed pregnancies, 99 of which were live births. They were asked about how often they ate specific foods over a 6-month period. Women were then ranked from 0-55, and then split into three groups.
Groups were conducted based on score, with 79 women in the 18-30 group, 79 women in the 31-35 group, and 86 women in the 36-47 group. Women in the 18-30 group had only a 29% rate of pregnancy and 26.6% rate of live births compared to the 36-47 group who had a 50% rate of pregnancy and 48.8% rate of live births.
Throughout this study, age also played a part, with women under 35-years of age receiving an increased score of 5 out of the possibly 55, compared to those over 35. Women over 35 saw less improvement on the chances of pregnancy following the diet. This was assumed to be due to depleting hormone levels, and fewer remaining eggs. Researchers have suggested that the diet may also be less helpful to those trying to conceive naturally, rather than utilizing IVF, or those who have a higher than average BMI.
While eating foods considered to be specifically Mediterranean is not a cure-all for infertility, this study has provided insight into the importance of healthy, fresh eating while attempting to become pregnant. This information transfers equally to men, who have also seen success in higher sperm count and quality when following a healthy diet. This could be due to the number of vitamins consumed, and their effect on sperm production. Vitamin E, for example, has been linked to healthier sperm.
The success of this study, no matter how minimal, sparks interest into further research regarding food and sexual health. Researchers from the study have voiced their hopes to continue this line of research to determine what other nutritional factors play a role in increased fertility among women. As of now, it is deduced that fresh, whole foods, rather than pre-packaged ingredients, are best suited to a healthy and successful pregnancy.
Before making any major changes to your diet or vitamin intake, be sure to consult your doctor. He or she will determine the best nutritional course of action based on your medical history, age, and current fertility status. Your doctor may refer you to a specialist or nutritionist for more information on which foods to eat and avoid to increase chances of successful implantation during IVF.
If you are looking into IVF treatment options, our experienced team can help guide you. Give us a call with any questions you have, and we’ll be happy to help out.