It's good for your heart and waistline. And if you are undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) or other fertility treatments, eating a Mediterranean-style diet rich in vegetables, whole grains, olive and vegetable oils, and lean meats could also be good for your chances of becoming pregnant, according to a new study from Dutch researchers.
Published online March 2, 2010, in the journal Fertility and Sterility, the study of 161 couples undergoing fertility treatments—either IVF or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI)—grouped women according to their self-reported eating patterns and then tracked their fertility success rates. Researchers found that women whose eating habits most closely matched the traditional Mediterranean diet were 40 percent more likely to become pregnant than those with the least Mediterranean-like diets.
While still just a preliminary study, the Dutch findings point to a possible role for diet in fertility treatment success, according to the researchers, led by Dr. Regine P.M. Steegers-Theunissen of Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam. In a Reuters Health article on the study, Dr. Steegers-Theunissen suggests that couples considering fertility treatment eat a balanced diet that includes healthy doses of vegetable oil, vegetables, beans, and fish—and other Mediterranean-diet staples.
Will that plate of whole grain pasta drizzled with olive oil really help you get pregnant? It might. Olive oil and other vegetable oils prominently featured in the Mediterranean diet (grape seed, flax) are rich in omega-6 fatty acids, the precursor to hormone-like substances in the body called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins, in turn, are involved in the menstrual cycle, ovulation, and pregnancy maintenance, the Reuters Health article notes. The study also found that women who most closely followed a Mediterranean diet had higher levels of vitamin B6. According to researchers, a previous study had found that giving vitamin B6 to women who were having difficulty getting pregnant increased their chances of conception.