- A small-scale study conducted in Greece suggests that a Mediterranean-style diet may enhance the success rates of IVF treatments, particularly in younger women.
- The Mediterranean-style diet emphasizes a plant-based food regime including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, peas, lentils and nuts and limited salt and red meat.
- Women with higher adherence to a Mediterranean diet in the study showed significantly higher pregnancy and birth rates than those with lower adherence.
- The importance of lifestyle, including diet, exercise, and stress management, in reproductive success is emphasized.
- The study’s findings, however, are not entirely definitive and may not apply to all women, particularly those over 35 or those who are obese.
There’s an evolving interest in whether a Mediterranean-esque diet could enhance the success rates of in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments. This hypothesis originates from a petite-scale research investigation conducted in Greece.
According to this research, younger women who adopted such a heart-healthy eating regime six months prior to their IVF treatment reportedly experienced better pregnancy chances than their counterparts who didn’t. IVF is a procedural method of reproduction where an egg is fertilized with sperm outside the body and later implanted in the uterus.
The Link between Diet and Assisted Reproduction
Meropi Kontogianni, the researcher of the study, emphasized the need to educate couples globally facing fertility challenges on the significance of diet and adopting a healthy lifestyle in relation to assisted reproduction technologies like IVF. However, she makes clear that the findings don’t establish a direct cause and effect relationship.
The Mediterranean-style diet emphasizes plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, peas, lentils and nuts. It leans towards the usage of healthy fats, like olive oil, and lean protein sources such as fish and poultry, while maintaining low quantities of salt and red meat.
Why this dietary pattern could potentially enhance fertility treatments is still unclear, stated Kontogianni. Consequently, any nutritious diet may suit a similar effect.
Greater Pregnancy Rates Linked With Mediterranean Diet
“Despite current uncertainties, our discoveries provide preliminary evidence that couples undergoing infertility treatment may gain advantages from adhering to a Mediterranean diet,” said Kontogianni.
However, she also noted the necessity of further studies to validate any benefits.
Kontogianni and her team administered a food frequency questionnaire to 244 Greek women undergoing their first IVF treatment. They ranged between 22 to 41 years old, and were not obese. The women provided their typical consumption frequency of various food groups over the past six months. The researchers then divided the participants into three categories based on their adherence to a Mediterranean diet.
The individuals with the highest adherence scores manifested significantly higher pregnancy rates than those with the lowest scores (50 percent versus 29 percent). The birth rates also proved higher (49 percent versus 27 percent), according to the results.
For women under 35, every 5-point increase in their diet score corresponded to approximately a thrice higher chance of a successful pregnancy and birth.
The Role of Lifestyle in Reproductive Success
Experts emphasize that the findings accentuate the importance of lifestyle on successful pregnancies via IVF. There’s an increasing awareness amoing women that adopting a salutary lifestyle, such as following a healthy diet, avoiding smoking, regular exercising, maintaining a healthy weight, and managing stress levels can ameliorate fertility rates.
A healthy diet system might be a manifestation of overall wholesome behaviors which cumulatively, result in better IVF outcomes.
The researchers noted that a man’s dietary habits are also consequential for IVF treatment success.
Limits in Generalizing the Findings
Kontogianni mentioned the limits of generalizing the findings to all women attempting to conceive, or to obese women. Furthermore, no correlation between diet and IVF success was found among women aged 35 and above. The reason is likely due to hormonal changes, reduction in egg quantity, and other physiological alterations women undergo with increased age potentially overshadowing the influence of factors like diet.
Yet, critics question the study’s conclusion, citing the varying IVF treatment protocols assigned to patients as a potential confounding factor that could have influenced IVF outcomes.
For those interested in getting more perspective on the intersection of diet and fertility, check out the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.