Nutrition and reproduction

Updated: Sep 26, 2020

Harmful lifestyle habits have been indicated as potential causes of reduced fertility. Recently, studies have suggested an association between healthy diets and increased live birth rates after assisted reproduction techniques.

Infertility is a medical condition recognized by the World Health Organization and defined as the failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse. It affects up to 25 million people in Europe.

Except for nonmodifiable factors such as parental age and low ovarian reserve, detrimental lifestyle habits have been suggested as potential causes of reduced fertility. In particular, over the last decade, the literature on the relationship between diet and fertility has expanded.


An adequate supply in folic acid found in leafy green vegetables, such as spinach, citrus fruits, such as orange juice, beans, bread, cereals, rice and pasta, and isoflavones that are found in soybeans, chickpeas, fava beans, pistachios, peanuts, or other fruits and nuts, as well as healthy diets, was shown to be associated with increased live birth rates.

The relationship between the #Mediterranean diet, its components and in vitro fertilization (IVF) outcome, was analyzed using data from a cohort study conducted in an Italian fertility centre. Couples undergoing in vitro fertilization were interviewed to obtain information on personal and health history, lifestyle habits, and diet. Adherence to a Mediterranean diet was evaluated using a Mediterranean diet score. Relative risks and 95% confidence intervals for embryo transfer, clinical pregnancy, and live birth were calculated. Potential confounders were included in the equation model.

Among 474 women, 414 (87.3%) performed embryo transfer,150 (31.6%) had clinical pregnancies, and 117 (24.7%) had live births. In a model including the potential confounders (age, leisure physical activity, body mass index, smoking, daily calorie intake, and previous failed in vitro fertilization cycles), findings showed that the Mediterranean diet score was not significantly associated with in vitro fertilization outcomes.

Even though no clear association was observed between adherence to a Mediterranean diet and successful in vitro fertilization, previous studies have shown healthy diets to be associated with increased live birth rates. In conclusion, consuming some specific foods based on their nutritional values increases the possibilities of pregnancy and child delivery.

Source: Mediterranean diet and outcomes of assisted reproduction: an Italian cohort study.
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