Last updated January 31, 2018 at 12:00 pm
Healthy eating could be one of the determining factors in a successful IVF procedure for younger women.
A Greek study suggests that women under 35 who follow a “Mediterranean” diet in the six months before assisted reproductive treatment have a significantly greater likelihood of achieving pregnancy and a live birth.
The same does not apply to women aged over 35 , but the researchers believe that is because fewer available eggs and the hormonal and other changes women experience as they get older tend to mask the influence of diet and other environmental factors.
However they note that this finding doesn’t mean eating a healthy diet is not just as important for older women.
“Our results suggest the need for additional research not only among older women, but also among women with obesity problems and in women conceiving naturally,” says the research leader, Nikos Yiannakouris from the Harokopio University of Athens.
Researchers from the university’s Department of Nutrition and Dietetics asked 244 women aged 22-41 about their diet, via a food frequency questionnaire, when they enrolled at an Assisted Conception Unity in Athens for their first IVF treatment.
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Each was given a MedDiet Score, ranging from 0-55, based on their adherence to a Mediterranean diet; that is one that includes more fresh vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes, fish and olive oil but less red meat.
Based on these scores the women were allocated to one of three groups.
The results showed that the 79 women in the lowest scoring group had significantly lower rates of pregnancies (29% versus 50%) and live births (26.6% versus 48.8%). Compared with the 86 in the highest group.
For women younger than 35, every five-point improvement in the MedDiet Score was linked to about a 2.7 times higher likelihood of achieving a successful pregnancy and live birth.
Diet matters for potential fathers, too
Overall, 229 women (93.9%) had at least one embryo transferred to their wombs; 138 (56%) had a successful implantation; 104 (42.6%) achieved a clinical pregnancy (one that can be confirmed by ultrasound); and 99 (40.5%) gave birth to a live baby.
Hopeful fathers should also think about what they are eating.
“Previous work from our research group among the male partners of our study has suggested that adherence to the Mediterranean diet may also help improve semen quality,” says Prof Yiannakouris.
“Taken together, these findings highlight the importance of dietary influences and diet quality on fertility, and support a favourable role for the Mediterranean diet on assisted reproduction performance.”
The researchers say that their findings cannot be generalised to all women trying to become pregnant, nor to obese women or women attending other infertility clinics around the world.
They point out that their findings show that a Mediterranean diet is only linked to improved IVF outcomes and they cannot show that it causes the improved chances of pregnancy and birth.
The paper recently published by Human Reproduction.