It's argued to be the healthiest diet in the world. The Mediterranean diet - a diet that emphasizes fruit and vegetables, grains, nuts and olive oil - has been shown to guard against heart disease, certain cancers, obesity, diabetes, asthma, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease.
Now a new study suggests that women who eat a Mediterranean-style diet are less likely to have trouble getting pregnant.
Researchers from Spain looked at nearly 500 women with fertility problems and more than 1,600 women of the same age who had at least one child. Based on questionnaires, they measured how closely women followed either a Western-style or a Mediterranean diet.
The Western diet consisted of red meat, fast food, whole-fat dairy products, potatoes, refined grains and sugary drinks, and was not linked to fertility. In other words, there was no difference in fertility problems between women who followed this type of diet strictly and those who followed it less closely.
But the picture changed for women with a Mediterranean diet. Women who most closely followed this eating pattern were 44% less likely to have fertility problems compared to women whose diets resembled this diet the least.
It's though the Mediterranean type diet may have a protective effect on insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance is a condition when cells in the body are unable to use insulin properly, the hormone that removes sugar form the bloodstream.
Researchers have found a link between insulin resistance and ovulation -- when the egg is released from the ovary and can be fertilized. Insulin also regulates a number of hormones, in particular the amount of hormones needed for ovulation which is essential for reproduction. The researchers speculate the Mediterranean diet indirectly influences ovulation.
The Mediterranean diet contains nutrients that help your body clear sugar from the bloodstream while using less insulin to do this job. This makes it easier for the body to keep the balance of reproductive hormones.
For women who are thinking about getting pregnant there is no harm in adopting the Mediterranean diet.
But for women who are having fertility problems, there is not enough data to show that this diet pattern can help you get pregnant.
Men should also watch their diet if they're interested in maximizing their fertility. A recent study from Harvard University found that overweight men had lower sperm counts than their leaner peers.
SOURCE Fertility and Sterility, September 2011.
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.