Along with a team of researchers from the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at the Harokopio University of Athens, Dr Nikos Yiannakouris has completed a study suggesting a link between the Mediterranean Diet and a woman’s chance of a successfully conceiving and delivering a healthy baby with IVF treatment.
The study involved nearly 250 women between the ages of 22 and 41. Questionnaires were completed which asked the women how often they had eaten particular groups of food over the last six months. Based on the results of the questionnaires, each woman was given a Mediterranean diet ‘score’.
The results of the study suggested that those in the group which had high Mediterranean diet scores were over 65% more likely to have a successful pregnancy and healthy child than those who scored lower. However, for women over the age of 35, successful pregnancies and live births did not appear to be linked with diet. The researchers have suggested that hormonal changes and fewer available eggs in women of this age may have outweighed the positive effect of the diet. Such a significant variation in results for women under 35 suggests other factors may be involved too, perhaps their normal diet or lifestyle was unhealthy.
Typically rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fish, the Mediterranean diet usually includes a much lower intake of red meat and dairy products than in the UK and USA. At this stage, it is impossible to identify the exact causal mechanism for how this type of diet could be influencing the success rate of IVF, but other experts have suggested it could be due to the high levels of antioxidants found in this type of food.
For many years, this type of diet has been associated with healthier hearts and longer lives. Here at Concept we recommend that both men and women who are attempting to conceive should try to keep to a healthy diet, such as the Mediterranean one, and lead a generally healthy life. For pregnant women this should continue at least until childbirth. Further research aims to develop more specific nutritional guidelines in the hope to increase the success of fertility treatment and fertility in general.