Women planning to go through in-vitro fertilization (IVF) may boost their chances of success if they follow a Mediterranean style diet beforehand. That’s the conclusion from a Greek study of 244 women seeking IVF in Athens, Greece (Karayiannis et al, Human Reproduction, Jan. 30, 2018).
How Did the Study Work?
The investigators evaluated the volunteers’ diets before the treatment and determined how closely they adhered to a Mediterranean diet pattern. They quantified this with a MedDietScore ranging from 0 to 55. Higher scores signify better adherence to a Mediterranean diet. Then the investigators followed up with the women to assess their success with IVF.
What Is IVF?
When a couple is having difficulty conceiving naturally, doctors can offer them in vitro fertilization. In this procedure, an egg (from the mother or from another woman who donates her healthy eggs) is combined with sperm in a clinical laboratory. The resulting embryos are tested to determine viability, and a viable embryo is implanted into the mother’s uterus.
At this point, ideally, the mother’s body is prepared to nurture the embryo so that it grows just as if it had been fertilized inside her. But the same difficulties that can beset any pregnancy may also occur after IVF. That’s why the scientists looked at the rates of live births as well as the rates of confirmed pregnancy.
How Does a Mediterranean Diet Influence IVF Success?
Younger women whose diets were least comparable to a classic Mediterranean pattern had lower rates of pregnancy (29%) and also of live birth (26.6%). In contrast, those with the highest MedDietScores had a 50% rate of clinical pregnancy and 48.8% live birth.
There was no significant association between diet and IVF success in women over 35. This may reflect the more complicated circumstances surrounding fertility as women grow older.
The investigators point out that an observational study such as this cannot determine causality. Nonetheless, they suggest that sticking to a Mediterranean diet might improve a woman’s chance of success with IVF. Since following a Mediterranean diet has numerous other health benefits, we couldn’t disagree.
If you would like some help learning how to follow a Mediterranean diet yourself, you may be interested in our book, The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies. It contains instructions and a few recipes that can get you started eating more vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains. A Mediterranean diet also contains less meat and fewer sweets than most Americans are accustomed to eating.