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Mediterranean diet linked to IVF success, study finds

Women who ate more fresh vegetables, fruit, whole grains, fish and olive oil were more likely to get pregnant, the research discovered.

A Mediterranean diet could help women receiving IVF to achieve successful pregnancies, a study has suggested.

Researchers asked women about their eating habits before they underwent the treatment and found those who ate more fresh vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes, fish and olive oil, and less red meat, had the better outcomes.

The study found women who ate that way in the six months before IVF had a 65%-68% better chance of becoming pregnant and giving birth to a live baby than women with the lowest adherence to the Mediterranean-style diet.

The research, which is published in the journal Human Reproduction, focused on dietary patterns rather than individual nutrients, foods or food groups.

It assessed the diet of 244 women via a food frequency questionnaire when they enrolled at a clinic in Athens, Greece, for their first IVF treatment.

The questionnaire asked them about how often they ate certain groups of food in the preceding six months before they were given a MedDiet Score, which ranged from 0-55, with higher scores indicating greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet.

Researchers, led by Associate Professor Nikos Yiannakouris at the department of nutrition and dietetics at Harokopio University of Athens, divided the women into three groups depending on their MedDiet Score: the first group had scores between 18 to 30, the second scored between 31-35 and the third group scored between 36 to 47.

They found that compared to the 86 women in the highest scoring group, 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%). When the researchers looked at women younger than 35, they found that every five-point improvement in the MedDiet Score was linked with an approximately 2.7 times higher likelihood of achieving a successful pregnancy and live birth.

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.

“The important message from our study is that women attempting fertility should be encouraged to eat a healthy diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, because greater adherence to this healthy dietary pattern may help increase the chances of successful pregnancy and delivering a live baby,” said Prof Yiannakouris.

“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 favourable role for the Mediterranean diet on assisted reproduction performance.”

The researchers said their findings cannot be generalised to all women trying to become pregnant as their study was only linked to improved IVF outcomes.

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