Researchers in the Netherlands found that among 161 couples undergoing fertility treatment at their center, women whose eating habits most closely matched the traditional Mediterranean diet were 40 percent more likely to become pregnant, compared to women with the least Mediterranean-like diets.
In the study, researchers asked couples to complete detailed questionnaires on their eating habits over the past month, prior to fertility treatment, including in-vitro fertilization (IVF), and intracytoplasmic sperm injection.
Researchers then analyzed the data and identified two common diet patterns among the women, the Mediterranean diet, defined as high in vegetables, vegetable oils, fish and beans, but low in snack foods; and a similar health-conscious diet, which was high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and fish, and low in meat and snack foods.
Researchers found that the group that most closely adhered to the Mediterranean diet was 40 percent more likely to become pregnant than their counterparts whose diets were farthest from the Mediterranean pattern.
In contrast, when researchers considered several other factors, including the women's age, body weight, and drinking and smoking habits, they found no relationship between the so-called health-conscious diet and rates of pregnancy.
While the Mediterranean diet and health-conscious diet appear to be similar, there are a few characteristics of the Mediterranean diet that sets it apart. It's thought that the omega-6 fatty acids from the vegetable oils in the Mediterranean diet may act as precursors to hormone-like substances in the body called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins, in turn, are involved in the menstrual cycle, ovulation and pregnancy maintenance. In addition, researchers found that women who most closely adhered to the Mediterranean diet had the highest levels of vitamin B6.
The findings were published in the journal Fertility and Sterility.
All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.