Fertility boost on your plate? Mediterranean diet can increase chances of having a child

ADELAIDE, Australia — Infertility affects 48 million couples and 186 million individuals worldwide, but with a little change in diet, there may be hope for starting a family. A new study from Australian researchers finds that people who follow the Mediterranean diet enjoy better health outcomes and increased fertility. Understanding how the Mediterranean diet helps with fertility could help many people who hope to have a child of their own one day.

The Mediterranean diet is a plant-heavy food regimen that focuses on whole grains, extra virgin olive oil, fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes, nuts, herbs, and spices. Though it does allow some leeway for the occasional meat dish. In small amounts, the Mediterranean diet allows for red and processed meats. It also includes yogurt, cheese, and lean protein sources such as oily fish, chicken, or eggs.

Because of its emphasis on healthy fats and plant-based meals, studies have found the Mediterranean diet to be one of the healthiest diets in the world. Research has consistently linked the Mediterranean diet to a number of health benefits. In the current study, a team from the University of South Australia found that the anti-inflammatory properties in the diet help boost one’s fertility. It also increased the chance of success for fertility-assisted reproductive technology and sperm quality in men.

“Deciding to have a baby is one of life’s biggest decisions, but if things don’t go as planned, it can be very stressful for both partners,” says study author Evangeline Mantzioris in a university release.

Infertility treatments can be costly with no guaranteed chance of success

Following a Mediterranean diet could serve as a non-invasive and cost-effective way of improving the chances of conception.

“Research shows inflammation can affect fertility for both men and women, affecting sperm quality, menstrual cycles, and implantation,” adds Mantzioris. “So, in this study we wanted to see how a diet that reduces inflammation – such as the Mediterranean diet – might improve fertility outcomes.”

In the current study, people who took part in this anti-inflammatory diet — filled with polyunsaturated or “healthy” fats, leafy green vegetables, and less red or processed meats — showed more signs of fertility.

In the United States, many people follow the “Western diet.” Studies continue to show the diet is very unhealthy as it includes excess saturated fats, refined carbohydrates, and animal proteins. What’s more, it lacks dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals necessary for human health. Past research has associated a western diet with high levels of inflammation.

The study is published in the journal Nutrients.

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About the Author

Jocelyn Solis-Moreira

Jocelyn is a New York-based science journalist whose work has appeared in Discover Magazine, Health, and Live Science, among other publications. She holds a Master’s of Science in Psychology with a concentration in behavioral neuroscience and a Bachelor’s of Science in integrative neuroscience from Binghamton University. Jocelyn has reported on several medical and science topics ranging from coronavirus news to the latest findings in women’s health.

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