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Study Shows Mediterranean Diet May Help Infertility Treatment

Study Shows Mediterranean Diet May Help Infertility Treatment


A study of women receiving infertility treatment shows that those who ate a Mediterranean-style diet were 40 percent more likely to become pregnant than those following what is often considered a health-conscious diet. The main difference was the presence in the Mediterranean diet of omega-6 fatty acids from vegetable oils and of vitamin B6.

While the report, published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, said the study of 161 couples being treated for infertility in the Netherlands was not comprehensive enough to be definitive, it suggested that the results were worthy of consideration.

Study Divided Treatment Patients by Eating Habits

Researchers, led by Dr. Regine P.M. Steegers-Theunissen of Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam, interviewed the couples about their eating habits in the month leading up to treatment and divided them according to diet. A Mediterranean diet was defined as being rich in vegetables, vegetable oils, fish, and beans, and low in snack foods. The health-conscious diet was similar, but included more fruits and whole grains, as well a more conscious effort to avoid meat.

Omega-6 fatty acids promote prostaglandins, hormone-like substances involved in the menstrual cycle, ovulation and pregnancy maintenance. A previous study showed that, among women having difficulty getting pregnant, those given vitamin B6 were more likely to succeed.

Study Described As Not Definitive, but Promising

Steegers-Theunissen said her study was merely observational, so could not establish a firm connection between diet and the rate of success in overcoming infertility. She said conducting a study that actually tracked adherence to diet standards would be difficult, but suggested the preliminary results were sufficiently promising to encourage women undergoing infertility treatment to eat a healthy diet that leaned toward the Mediterranean style.

About two-thirds of the women involved in the study were receiving in vitro fertilization treatment, most commonly used when a woman is unable to deliver a viable egg for natural fertilization; about one-third were undergoing intracytoplasmic sperm injection, most commonly used when a man has difficulty producing or delivering viable sperm.

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