Can high-protein, low-carb diet boost fertility treatment?

May 6, 2013 by Amy Norton, Healthday Reporter
Can high-protein, low-carb diet boost fertility treatment?
That's the conclusion of small, early study of women undergoing in vitro fertilization.

(HealthDay)—Women who are undergoing fertility treatment may be more likely to conceive if they get a good amount of protein in their diets, a small new study suggests.

The study, of 120 undergoing in (IVF) at one medical center, found that those who ate plenty of and relatively few carbohydrates were more likely to become pregnant.

Among women who got at least 25 percent of their daily calories from protein, 67 percent became pregnant. That compared with 32 percent of women who had less protein in their diets. What's more, women who got plenty of protein and relatively few carbohydrates—less than 40 percent of their calories—had the highest pregnancy rate, at 80 percent.

Experts cautioned that the findings do not mean that women with should load up on steak, eggs and butter. But they did agree that the results point to an important role of in a woman's chances of conceiving.

"I think the message to infertility patients is to pay attention to what you eat," said Dr. James Grifo, program director at the NYU Fertility Center in New York City, who was not involved in the study.

"There aren't many things you have control over when you're undergoing fertility treatment," Grifo said. "But what you eat is one."

He did caution against "overinterpreting" the findings, which are being presented Monday at the annual meeting of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, in New Orleans. Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

The study group was a small, select group of women, Grifo said, and it's not clear precisely why women who ate more protein had a higher IVF success rate.

One reason, Grifo speculated, could be that women who eat a lot of protein get far fewer "" from , which feature heavily in the typical U.S. diet.

Processed foods are often high in simple carbohydrates and, in theory, the effects of those carbs on insulin and other hormones could affect women's fertility, Grifo said.

Dr. Jeffrey Russell, who led the study, said he thinks both the extra protein and carb reduction matter. Dietary protein—whatever the form—may be key in the quality of a woman's eggs, said Russell, who directs the Delaware Institute for Reproductive Medicine in Newark, Del.

For the study, Russell's team had 120 women keep diet records for three days before undergoing IVF. They used a software program to calculate how much protein and carbs the women consumed each day.

It turned out that 48 women got at least 25 percent of their daily calories from protein, and 67 percent of them became pregnant. The other 72 women ate less protein, and their was substantially lower, at 32 percent.

Russell said that, on average, there was no difference between the two groups as far as body-mass index—a measure of weight in relation to height. High body-mass index has been linked to lower IVF success, but Russell said he thinks more attention needs to go toward diet quality, whatever a woman's weight.

Kim Ross, a nutritionist at NYU Fertility Center, said the new results are interesting and underscore the importance of healthy eating for women undergoing .

"But I wouldn't want them to think this means they should load up on animal products," she said.

Ross said it's likely that women who ate a lot of protein and few carbs were eating more "whole foods" and fewer processed foods than other women. The processed foods in the typical American diet—even ones that seem fairly healthy—are often skimpy on nutrients of all kinds, Ross said.

Other research supports the notion that a well-balanced, nutritious diet supports fertility. Recent studies have linked the Mediterranean diet to better odds of conceiving versus the standard Western diet, in both women undergoing IVF or trying the natural way.

The traditional Mediterranean diet is low in red meat, dairy and processed foods, but high in fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, olive oil and whole grains.

Both Ross and Grifo said "good" fats, like those in vegetable oils, plus fruits, vegetables and other healthy carbs, are important for women undergoing IVF—as they are for everyone.

Russell said women at his center are now routinely counseled on nutrition before undergoing IVF. If they are below the 25 percent mark for protein, they get advice on how to add more to their diets and cut out empty carbs.

In counseling women at the NYU center, Ross said she sees where women are starting from, as far as diet and lifestyle, and goes from there. Some women may need more protein, but others may not, she said.

And although the current study focused only on women, Ross said men's nutrition matters in sperm quality, so she gives advice to both women and men ahead of and during infertility treatment.

Explore further: Too much dairy, carbs might harm men's sperm

More information: Learn more about fertility issues from the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Related Stories

Too much dairy, carbs might harm men's sperm

October 26, 2012
(HealthDay)—Diet can have a notable impact on reproductive health, a group of new studies suggests.

Diet high in vegetables and fruit associated with less weight gain in African-American women

May 20, 2011
Investigators from the Slone Epidemiology Center at Boston University have reported that African American women who consumed a diet high in vegetables and fruit gained less weight over a 14-year period than those who consumed ...

'Dessert with breakfast diet' helps avoid weight regain by reducing cravings

June 25, 2012
Dieters have less hunger and cravings throughout the day and are better able to keep off lost weight if they eat a carbohydrate-rich, protein-packed breakfast that includes dessert. These findings come from a new study that ...

‘Infertile’ women may just need longer to conceive

February 20, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- One-in-four women with a history of infertility can still end up having a baby without treatment, a new study from The University of Queensland (UQ) shows.

Mind/body program increases pregnancy rates in IVF treatment

May 9, 2011
There is no doubt that undergoing infertility treatment is stressful, with high rates of anxiety and depression reported by many patients. Mind/body therapies designed to help women reduce stress earlier in the treatment ...

Recommended for you

New report calls into question effectiveness of pregnancy anti-nausea drug

January 17, 2018
Previously unpublished information from the clinical trial that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration relied on to approve the most commonly prescribed medicine for nausea in pregnancy indicates the drug is not effective, ...

New study finds 'baby brain' is real, but the cause remains mysterious

January 15, 2018
So-called "baby brain" refers to increased forgetfulness, inattention, and mental "fogginess" reported by four out of five pregnant women. These changes in brain function during pregnancy have long been recognised in midwifery ...

Sleep quality improves with help of incontinence drug

January 12, 2018
A drug used to curtail episodes of urinary incontinence in women also improves quality of sleep, a researcher at the Stanford University School of Medicine reports.

Frozen embryos result in just as many live births in IVF

January 10, 2018
Freezing and subsequent transfer of embryos gives infertile couples just as much of a chance of having a child as using fresh embryos for in vitro fertilization (IVF), research from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and Adelaide, ...

Study suggests air pollution breathed in the months before and after conception increases chance of birth defects

January 8, 2018
A team of researchers with the University of Cincinnati and Cincinnati Children's Hospital has found evidence that indicates that pre-and post-pregnant women living in an area with air pollution are at an increased risk of ...

Taking paracetamol during pregnancy may reduce fertility of daughters

January 5, 2018
Taking paracetamol during pregnancy may impair the future fertility of female offspring, according to a review published in Endocrine Connections. The article reviews three separate rodent studies that all report altered ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.