Mediterranean Diet May Improve IVF Success

A new study suggests that women who ate a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, fish, high-quality olive oil, whole grains and legumes and low in red meat increased their chances of getting pregnant and achieving a live birth by 65-68 percent.

By Julie Al-Zoubi
Feb. 12, 2018 09:49 UTC

A new study pub­lished in the Human Reproduction Journal sug­gested that a Mediterranean diet may sig­nif­i­cantly increase the chances of women under­go­ing fer­til­ity ther­apy to become preg­nant and give birth to a live baby.

Adherence to this healthy dietary pat­tern may help increase the chances of suc­cess­ful preg­nancy and deliv­er­ing a live baby.- Nikos Yiannakouris, Harokopio University

Participating women who ate a diet rich in fresh fruit and veg­eta­bles, fish, high-qual­ity olive oil, whole grains and legumes and low in red meat increased their chances of get­ting preg­nant and achiev­ing a live birth by 65 – 68 per­cent com­pared with women who didn’t adhere to a Mediterranean diet.

Women who reg­is­tered at the Assisted Conception Unit for their first IVF treat­ment were asked to com­plete a food fre­quency ques­tion­naire. The form asked how often they had eaten cer­tain types of food in the six months lead­ing up to their IVF appoint­ment.
See Also:Olive Oil and Women’s Health
The women were given a MedDiet score based on their eat­ing habits. The score ranged from 0 – 55 and par­tic­i­pants who strictly adhered to the Mediterranean diet received a higher score.

The study deter­mined that women whose MedDiet score was high had a live birth rate of 48.8 per­cent com­pared to women who had the low­est scores and a birth rate of just 26.6 per­cent. Women in the high­est scor­ing group also achieved a preg­nancy rate of 50 per­cent com­pared to just 29 per­cent in the low­est scor­ing group.

The study was car­ried out in Athens and assessed the diet of 244 non-obese women aged 22 to 41 who were hav­ing IVF treat­ment for the first time. The research focused on over­all diet rather than spe­cific food groups or indi­vid­ual foods.

The research was led by asso­ciate pro­fes­sor Nikos Yiannakouris at the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at Harokopio University of Athens.

The impor­tant mes­sage from our study is that women attempt­ing fer­til­ity should be encour­aged to eat a healthy diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, because greater adher­ence to this healthy dietary pat­tern may help increase the chances of suc­cess­ful preg­nancy and deliv­er­ing a live baby,” Yiannakouris said.

Participants were divided into three groups accord­ing to their score. The first group was made up of 79 women whose scores ranged from 18 to 30. The sec­ond group con­tained women who scored between 31 and 35. The third group con­tained 86 par­tic­i­pat­ing women with scores of between 36 and 47.

The study found that for women younger than 35 years old, every extra five points scored from the MedDiet increased their prospects of becom­ing preg­nant and giv­ing birth to a live baby by 2.7 times.

Yiannakouris also added that in a sep­a­rate study, men’s diet and lifestyle were found to be just as impor­tant as women’s for cou­ples try­ing to con­ceive a baby. In that study, the Mediterranean diet was linked to bet­ter qual­ity semen, sig­nif­i­cantly higher sperm con­cen­tra­tion, higher sperm count, and sperm motil­ity.

Although a favor­able effect of the Mediterranean diet was only evi­dent in women under 35, Yiannakouris stressed that this didn’t mean eat­ing a healthy diet was less impor­tant for older women. Additional research is needed among older women, obese women, and women who con­ceive nat­u­rally.

No asso­ci­a­tion was deter­mined between the MedDiet and improved chances of suc­cess­ful preg­nan­cies or live births in women aged 35 and older. This may be due to a num­ber of fac­tors affect­ing this age group which could over­shadow the effects of the diet. Influencers may include fewer eggs being avail­able and hor­monal changes tak­ing place.

This was an obser­va­tional study that linked the effect of the Mediterranean diet to improved chances of becom­ing preg­nant. The researchers believe that inter­ven­tion stud­ies now need to be con­ducted to deter­mine exactly how and why the Mediterranean diet is effec­tive so nutri­tional guide­lines can be devel­oped for women seek­ing IVF.

The researchers stressed that their find­ings can’t be gen­er­al­ized to all women try­ing to con­ceive, obese women or women attend­ing other fer­til­ity clin­ics. They also explained that although their study indi­cated that a Mediterranean diet was linked to improved IVF out­comes, they can­not say that it was the cause of higher rates of preg­nancy and birth.


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