- The Mediterranean diet, known for its health benefits like reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes, can also improve fertility.
- This diet, which emphasizes fresh fruits, vegetables, healthy fats like olive oil, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and fish, aids in reducing inflammation, a factor that can negatively impact reproductive success and fertility outcomes.
- Contrarily, the Western diet, low in fruits and vegetables and high in fat and sodium, has been linked to increased inflammation and other health issues.
- Studies suggest that following a Mediterranean eating style can improve various fertility factors such as menstrual cycle regularity, embryo quality, live birth rates, men’s sperm quality, and endometriosis-related measurements.
- While diet plays a significant role in fertility by aiding in maintaining a healthy weight and reducing the risk of chronic diseases, it is not a replacement for medical treatment, especially for couples encountering difficulties in conceiving.
Add improved odds of successfully conceiving a child to the impressive list of health advantages tied to the often-praised Mediterranean Diet. Already known for its positive impact on brain health, heart disease risk reduction, and limiting the likelihood of diabetes and specific cancers, this diet has now been indicated to enhance fertility.
The Mediterranean Diet: What It Entails
The fantastic Mediterranean diet, with its emphasis on fresh fruits, vegetables, healthy fats such as olive oil, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and fish, is reported to enhance reproductive success through improved fertility, increased success with assisted reproductive technologies, and better sperm quality in men, according to researchers in Australia. Find the report here.
The Connection? Inflammation.
Researcher Simon Alesi from Monash University in Melbourne explains, “Our review indicates that the Mediterranean Diet may enhance fertility and benefit couples attempting to start a family.” Learn more about Simon Alesi.
Inflammation, increasingly recognized as a factor that negatively impacts reproductive success and fertility outcomes, is often referred to as ‘inflammatory infertility’. The Mediterranean diet is filled with bionutrients like monounsaturated fats, flavonoids, vitamins C and E, and polyphenols. It also ensures a limited intake of processed meat, all of which are likely to reduce inflammation, thereby improving fertility.
The Downside of the Western Diet
Contrasting with the healthy Mediterranean diet, the typical Western diet, low in fruits and vegetables and high in fat and sodium, has been linked to increased inflammation and other health issues.
Research Findings on the Mediterranean Diet and Fertility
The researchers delved into the relevant literature on diet and fertility. Their findings suggest that a Mediterranean eating style improves menstrual cycle regularity, embryo quality, live birth rates, and men’s sperm quality, along with endometriosis-related measurements. Regular menstrual cycles ease fertility tracking and pregnancy planning. Endometriosis, a painful and common occurrence when tissue akin to the uterus lining grows outside the uterus, can make it more difficult for women to conceive. High-quality embryos or developing fertilized eggs can improve the chances for a successful pregnancy.
Advice Couples Trying to Conceive
For those trying to conceive and undergoing infertility treatments like in vitro fertilization, Alesi recommends a plant-based diet filled with vegetables, fruits, cereals and grains, seeds, legumes, low-fat dairy, fermented dairy, and olive oil. He suggests a moderate intake of both white and red meat and stresses limiting processed and ultra-processed foods like soft drinks, chips, cookies, and cakes.
Alesi’s study has been published in the journal Nutrients.
Dr. Alex Robles, an obstetrician/gynecologist at Columbia University Fertility Center in New York City, also advises couples trying to conceive to follow a Mediterranean-style diet. “I recommend all patients trying to conceive to consider incorporating Mediterranean dietary elements into their lifestyle,” encourages Robles. He adds that there’s no significant downside risk to doing so, with the potential benefits being substantial.
Role of Diet in Fertility
Robles views diet as a significant factor in fertility, particularly in maintaining a healthy weight and reducing the risk of chronic diseases. He observes, “Being overweight or underweight can reduce fertility, just as chronic disease states can. Nutritious foods can help reduce inflammation, potentially improving both sperm and egg quality and improving menstrual cycle regulation.” He concludes, “Anti-inflammatory dietary interventions are a low-risk and potentially effective option to help couples trying to conceive.”
However, Robles cautions that while diet is undoubtedly helpful, it is not a replacement for medical treatment. For couples encountering difficulties conceiving, he advises consulting with a fertility doctor.
For Further Information
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine provides more information on infertility treatments.