For their numerous health benefits, fruits, vegetables, and legumes have long been praised as part of the Mediterranean diet. For couples seeking to conceive, it is now a non-invasive, cheap method, and research suggests it may also help with the treatment of infertility.
The study, conducted by Monash University, the University of the Sunshine Coast, and the University of South Australia, found that the Mediterranean diet can improve male sperm quality and fertility, as well as the efficacy of assisted reproductive technology (ART). Researchers found that a Mediterranean diet’s anti-inflammatory qualities can increase a couple’s likelihood of conceiving.
A major health problem, infertility affects 186 million people and 48 million couples worldwide. Dr. Evangeline Mantzioris, a researcher at UniSA, said altering preconception diet is a non-invasive and possibly beneficial way to enhance reproductive results.
“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,” Dr Mantzioris said.
“Research shows inflammation can affect fertility for both men and women, affecting sperm quality, menstrual cycles, and implantation. So, in this study we wanted to see how a diet that reduces inflammation – such as the Mediterranean diet – might improve fertility outcomes,” she added.
“Encouragingly, we found consistent evidence that by adhering to an anti-inflammatory diet – one that includes lots of polyunsaturated or ‘healthy’ fats, flavonoids (such as leafy green vegetables), and a limited amount of red and processed meat – we can improve fertility,” she added.
Dr. Evangeline Mantzioris, a researcher at UniSA, said altering preconception diet is a non-invasive and possibly beneficial way to enhance reproductive results. The majority of the Mediterranean diet is composed of plant-based foods, such as whole grains, extra virgin olive oil, fruits, vegetables, beans and other legumes, nuts, herbs, and spices. Red and processed meats are only consumed in moderation, along with yoghurt, cheese, and lean protein sources like fish, poultry, or eggs.
An excessive amount of animal proteins, processed carbohydrates, and saturated fats make up the western diet, which is energy rich and deficient in dietary fibre, vitamins, and minerals. Generally speaking, a western diet is linked to greater levels of inflammation.
According to Simon Alesi, a researcher at Monash University, knowing the relationship between fertility and anti-inflammatory foods like the Mediterranean diet might alter everything for couples looking to create a family.
“The Mediterranean diet is consistently ranked among the healthiest diets in the world. But knowing that it may also boost your chances of conceiving and having a baby is extremely promising,” Alesi said.
“Modifying your diet is a non-intrusive and affordable strategy that could potentially improve infertility”, he said, adding, “Of course, more research needs to be done, but at the very least, shifting to a Mediterranean diet will not only improve your overall health, but also your chances of conceiving.”