Health & Fitness

Mediterranean diet can boost fertility in women

Findings of the research, which was conducted in Greece, show that women who followed the diet six months before IVF treatment had a 65 to 68 per cent greater likelihood of achieving a successful pregnancy and greater birth outcome. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Findings of the research, which was conducted in Greece, show that women who followed the diet six months before IVF treatment had a 65 to 68 per cent greater likelihood of achieving a successful pregnancy and greater birth outcome. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

In-vitro fertilisation (IVF) is often a last resort for women desperate to conceive using other fertility treatment options.

But sometimes things don’t work out. The IVF fails for no apparent reason and their dreams are crushed to ashes.

“It’s like a nightmare. And even though you know it’s never 100 per cent effective, you can never prepare well enough for the bad news,” said 35-year-old Catherine Wanjiru who underwent the procedure in 2014.

“IVF isn’t cheap. So it felt like I had spent so much money for nothing. I felt like dying, like giving up, like life no longer held any meaning. I was in a dark place for long until I went through counselling.”

Couples going through such challenges will be encouraged by a new study published in the Human Reproduction journal indicating that women who adhere to the Mediterranean diet are more likely to become pregnant after going through IVF treatment.

This type of diet encourages the consumption of lots of fruits, fresh vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, fish and legumes, whilst recommending less intake of red meat.

Findings of the research, which was conducted in Greece, show that women who followed the diet six months before IVF treatment had a 65 to 68 per cent greater likelihood of achieving a successful pregnancy and greater birth outcomes compared to those that least adhered to it.

The favourable effect of the diet was evident only among women younger than 35 years. But the researchers noted that the positive effects of the diet could have been masked by other factors such as hormonal changes and low egg quantities that women experience as they get older.

“Basically, the younger the women, the higher the chances that they will produce quality eggs in the right quantities to boost the success of IVF,” said Dr Wanjiru Ndegwa, a consultant fertility specialist and gynaecologist at the Footsteps to Fertility Centre.

“But this doesn’t mean that older women cannot benefit from the procedure. Once the doctors do the assessment, they will be able to advise accordingly.”

She urges couples going through fertility problems to reach out to specialists so as to avoid unnecessary delays in finding appropriate solutions.

Aside from boosting fertility, research has shown that the Mediterranean diet also reduces the risk of heart disease as well as ‘bad’ cholesterol levels in the body, which helps to prevent hypertension or high blood pressure.

In addition, it is associated with a reduced risk of cancer, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.

In its entirety, the diet emphasises eating primarily plant based foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts.

It entails eating fish and poultry at least twice weekly and limiting red meat consumption to no more than a few times a month.

Partakers of the diet usually replace butter with healthy fats such as olive and canola oil. They use minimal salt or opt for herbs and spices instead of salt to flavour foods.