Latest Research Shows Diet Affects IVF Success
Latest Research Shows Diet Affects IVF Success

I love nutritional research of any kind. I devour anything written about the Blue Zones, which are areas around the world where people live to a significantly older age in good physical and mental health. There was a great article in last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine about one such place—Ikaria, Greece. Researchers speculate that their longevity is in part due to their diet of mostly plant based foods such as lentils, garbanzo beans, greens, and nuts, with a healthy dose of wine, herbal teas, honey, naps, and community involvement. I have no doubt that my fascination with epidemiological diet/longevity research is directly connected to my desire to control how long and how healthily I will live. I want very much to believe that if I eat and live “right” I can control my future. While not exactly true, it’s a fiction I’m very comfortable living with.

Dietary research with direct relevance to disease treatment is harder to come by and more difficult to assess. Often it is very general in nature and more or less boils down to eating a healthy moderate diet, which is of limited direct usefulness if you are trying to apply it to a specific disease and if you already have a fairly healthy diet.

At last week’s American Society of Reproductive Medicine conference, I was introduced to Dr. Jeffrey Russell, the lead researcher of two new studies on dietary changes that can increase the success rate of IVF.  He encouraged me to come to his presentation by promising me lots of specifics. Oh, be still my beating heart. He made good on his promise.

Up Proteins, Decrease Carbohydrates to Increase Pregnancy with IVF

In the first study, IVF patients were asked to complete a comprehensive dietary log for the three days prior to the beginning of their IVF cycle.  Their diets were analyzed for daily percentage proteins, carbohydrates, and fat. One hundred and twenty patients participated. Forty-eight patients had a daily average protein intake of greater than 25%, while 72 patients had diets with less than 25% protein. The two groups did not differ significantly on FSH levels, diagnosis, age, or BMI (Body Mass Index). Patients whose diet was greater than 25% protein had a significant increase in embryos that reached the blastocyst stage of development (5 days) over those who ate less than 25% protein (54.3% vs. 38.5%). They also had significantly higher pregnancy rates (66.6% vs. 31.9%).

When carbohydrate consumption was analyzed, researchers found that those patients eating less than 40% carbohydrates in their diets 3 days prior to initiating their IVF cycle had 63.2% pregnancy rate compared with 33.8% for those consuming greater than 40% carbohydrates. Patients who are greater than 25% protein and less than 40% carbohydrate had an 80% pregnancy rate.

Can Changing Your Diet Increase Your Odds of IVF Success?

In the second study, the researchers studied the effect of proactively altering the diets of women two months prior to their IVF cycle. Twelve women under the age of 35 who had a failed first IVF cycle with poor blastocyst development were studied to compare pregnancy rates and embryo development between the two cycles. The average BMI of the woman was 26.5, which is within the normal weight range. Two months prior to their second IVF cycle the protein in their diets was increase from an average of 15% to 27%. Their average carbohydrate intake was decreased from 48.6% to 40.1%. Researchers found that blastocyst formation increased from 18.9% to 45.3%, and the pregnancy rates increased from 16.6% to 83%. Although this was a small study, the results were exceedingly positive.

And this my friends is one of the reasons I love the ASRM conference. As you probably have already guessed, we will have the authors on these studies on a future Creating a Family show. To find out when this show will be scheduled, sign up for weekly e-newsletter at the top left of this page.

Image credit: Alyss