adherence to the Mediterranean diet may help increase the chances of
successful pregnancy and delivering a live baby
diet includes fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains, fish,
olive oil, and nuts
planning to become pregnant should follow the Mediterranean diet and a
Women who follow a Mediterranean diet at least
six months before assisted reproductive treatment have a better chance of
becoming pregnant and delivering a healthy baby, finds a study published in the
journal Human Reproduction.
A Mediterranean diet consists of
fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fish, nuts and olive oil.
The study led by Nikos Yiannakouris, Associate Professor
at the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at the Harokopio University of
Athens, found that women who followed a Mediterranean diet
had a 65-68% greater
likelihood of achieving a successful pregnancy and birth compared to women who
did not adhere to the Mediterranean diet.
Mediterranean Diet Linked to
Successful In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)
The research team recruited 244 women for the
study and assessed their diet before they underwent IVF treatment. The
participants were aged between 22-41 with a body mass index (BMI) of less than
30 kg/m2. The study focused on dietary patterns rather than individual
nutrients, foods or food groups.
‘Women hoping to get pregnant should follow a healthy diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, as it helps in chances of a successful pregnancy and delivering a live baby.’
A questionnaire was used to assess the frequent
consumption of certain groups of food in the preceding six months. The results
of the dietary pattern were given a MedDiet Score, which ranged from 0-55. Higher
the MedDiet Score, greater the adherence to the Mediterranean diet.
The participants were divided into three groups
based on their MedDiet Score. The first group had scores between 18 to 30, the
second group between 31-35 and the third group between 36 to 47.
The findings showed that 86 women in the
highest scoring group had significantly higher rates of pregnancies (50%) and
live births (48.8%) compared to the 79 women in the lowest scoring group with
lower rates of pregnancies (29%) and live births (26.6%).
Among the participants below 35 years of age,
every five-point improvement in the MedDiet Score was linked to 2.7 times
higher likelihood of achieving a successful pregnancy
and live birth. However, the research
team did not find any association between diet and the chances of successful
pregnancies and live births among women older than 35 years. The researchers
believe that this could be due to hormonal changes, fewer available eggs and
other factors that could influence the environmental factors.
The findings of the study suggest that women planning
to become pregnant should be encouraged to eat a healthy diet like the
Greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet may help
increase the chances of successful pregnancy and delivering a live baby.
About 94% (229) women had at least one embryo
transferred to their wombs. Fifty-six percent (138) had successful
implantation, 43% (104) achieved a clinical pregnancy, and 41% (99) gave birth
to a live baby.
"It should be noted that when it comes to
conceiving a baby, diet and lifestyle are just as important for men as for
women. 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. Taken together, these findings highlight the importance
of dietary influences and diet quality on fertility, and support a favorable
role for the Mediterranean diet on assisted reproduction performance,"
said Prof Yiannakouris.
Mediterranean Diet may not
Influence Natural Conception
The findings of the study cannot be generalized
to all women trying to conceive, nor obese women or women attending infertility
clinics. The study points 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 favorable effect of the Mediterranean diet
was evident only among women younger than 35 years does not mean that eating a
healthy diet is not as important for older women. The results suggest that the
need for additional research not only among older women, but also among obese
women and those conceiving naturally, said Prof Yiannakouris.
"Our findings provide support that couples
undergoing infertility treatment may benefit by adhering to the Mediterranean
diet. However, whether or not advice to adhere more closely to this traditional
diet would improve assisted reproduction, performance needs to be addressed in
future intervention studies. Moreover, our results should be explored and
confirmed in other populations within and beyond the Mediterranean region. More
research and intervention studies are needed to elucidate the role of diet
quality in assisted reproductive performance, to reveal underlying mechanisms,
and for developing nutritional guidelines for women to further improve
fertility treatment and success rates," said Prof Yiannakouris.
Globally, more couples face infertility problems
and seek access to assisted reproduction technologies to conceive. It is
essential for them to receive counseling on the importance of diet and healthy
lifestyle for conception.
- Dimitrios Karayiannis, Meropi D Kontogianni, Christina Mendorou, Minas Mastrominas, Nikos Yiannakouris. Adherence to the Mediterranean diet and IVF success rate among non-obese women attempting fertility. Human Reproduction, 2018; DOI: 10.1093/humrep/dey003