Tuesday 22 August 2023

Does eating a heart-healthy diet affect infertility treatment?

  Eating a diet prescribed by the American Heart Association led to a lower likelihood of pregnancy loss in a study of hundreds of women undergoing infertility treatment, researchers found.

Researchers from Harvard University in Massachusetts as well as the University of Girona, the Instituto de Salud Carlos and Universitat Rovira i Virgili, all in Spain, studies 612 women who went through 804 intrauterine insemination cycles and 768 in vitro fertilization treatments.

Infertility, they said, is a widespread problem for couples, with an estimated prevalence of 12% to 15%. Although mounting evidence suggests a couples’ diet can influence fertility, it is scant, though there is also evidence suggesting diet can affect the outcomes of infertility treatment, researchers wrote.


“Higher adherence to the American Heart Association index was inversely associated with pregnancy loss,” the researchers found. “Similar associations were observed with the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet, the Healthy Eating Index and Alternate Healthy Eating Index and the Mediterranean diet.”

Data from this study, conducted at a fertility center at an academic medical center in Boston, Massachusetts, was collected from January 2007 to October 2019 and analyzed from February to December 2022.

Scientists assessed the women’s diet before infertility treatment with a validated food frequency questionnaire.

There are some limitations to this study, medical experts point out. Dr. Helen O’Neill, the former program director for Reproductive Science and Women’s Health at University College London, said in the Science Media Centre there wasn’t enough data on the subject’s medical history, and the study itself included a predominantly white population that is not reflective of a diverse population. In addition, she said, the study did not collect data on what participants ate once they were undergoing treatment, which could influence the outcome.

Professor of Reproductive Medicine Ying Chong of the University of Southampton noted that the study’s “observational” nature is a drawback.

“They observed an association but we do not know if these diets directly cause lower miscarriage rate,” she said.

Experts did say a healthy diet can be beneficial for pregnancy and fertility, though.

“When planning a pregnancy, it is important that both parents should consume a varied diet (including folic acid supplements) based on plenty of vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds and pulses (beans, peas and lentils), a modest amount of meat, poultry and fish with dairy foods and abstaining from alcohol and foods which may be a risk during pregnancy,” Dr. Duane Mellor, a registered dietitian and senior lecturer at Aston University’s Medical School in the United Kingdom, told the Science Media Centre.

Mellor added that women should not feel guilty for their individual dietary choices during pregnancy, though, as morning sickness can make this difficult.

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