19 Dec The perfect IVF diet? Ask an avocado.
Pregnancy nutrition is a hot topic. But should IVF patients follow a different dietary path? It’s a question our own patients often ask us. Research a few years ago from the Harvard School of Public Heath suggested avocados may triple live birth rates for couples undergoing IVF.
Let’s look at the fine print. The study found that food high in monounsaturated fats – including olive oil, sunflower oil, nuts, seeds and avocados – may significantly raise IVF success rates for those who consume a lot of it. But for those who ate more saturated fat – as found in butter and red meat, for example – fertility treatment was less successful.
As with all medical research, it’s hard to know how seriously to take the findings. A study’s importance often depends on how many people are involved. The above study followed just 147 women, each having IVF at a clinic in Massachusetts. But don’t dismiss it for being small. Medical exploration has to start somewhere.
In more recent research from China, a Mediterranean diet was found to boost embryo yield in IVF patients. 590 women took part. Roughly half were put on a diet particularly rich in vegetables, fruit, nuts, olive oil and fish. While implantation rates were similar for both groups, those on the ultra-Mediterranean diet saw more developing embryos.
Other studies also suggest a healthy Mediterranean diet is a good thing. A small Dutch study said the diet could improve IVF pregnancy rates. And a 2018 Greek study saw better pregnancy and live birth rates after IVF for women who followed a good-quality Mediterranean diet.
Fancy a coffee in Denmark? A 2012 study there found that women who drink five or more cups of coffee a day may halve their chances of a clinical pregnancy after IVF. Almost 4,000 women took part. Caffeine, it would seem, should be consumed carefully by fertility patients. The British Coffee Association (yes, there really is one) advises no more than 200 mg of caffeine per day for pregnant women or those trying to conceive. That’s two to three cups.
And what about men? At the 68th Annual Meeting of the America Society of Reproductive Medicine, sperm quality loomed large. One study suggested dairy products, particularly those with full-fat content, may have an adverse effect on semen quality. Another found that carbohydrates may affect sperm concentration in young men.
At the same meeting, another study caught our eye. Women having IVF produced more blastocysts after eating more protein and less carbohydrate. It’s one of countless studies looking at fertility patients and their diets. You’ll find more, big ones and small ones, online. But your fertility clinic will give you the best dietary advice, so don’t over-research.
Every IVF patient has different nutritional and medical needs. For our own IVF diet, we followed general advice from our GP: eat a balanced diet. That, and exercise, may also reduce the chance of an overweight baby.
There’s more. A study on pregnancy diet and DNA found that a mother’s diet at the time of conception may affect the baby’s genes. And if you eat junk food before getting pregnant, you have a 50% increased risk of giving birth prematurely. Food for thought.
Of course, no IVF shopping trolley would be complete without a generous handful of fabulous foods. Interested in our favourites? Here goes.
Broccoli, strawberries, oatmeal, bananas, brazil nuts, dried figs, salmon, tomatoes, blueberries, bananas, spinach, fresh orange juice, anchovies, smoked trout, wheatgerm, low-fat yogurt, wholemeal bread, brown rice, pineapple, kale, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, cabbage, mango, sweet potatoes, melon, walnuts, pomegranate, eggs, humus and chicken.
Optimum nutrition for IVF patients continues to be assessed. While it is, a balanced range of good-quality, natural foods is a good starting point. Throw in some folic-acid foods for good measure. And don’t forget those avocados!