Health Day - ONLINE EDITION

Can High-Protein, Low-Carb Diet Boost Fertility Treatment?

That's the conclusion of small, early study of women undergoing in vitro fertilization

  • Print

MONDAY, May 6 (HealthDay News) -- 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 women undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) at one medical center, found that those who ate plenty of protein 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 fertility problems should load up on steak, eggs and butter. But they did agree that the results point to an important role of diet 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 "empty calories" from processed foods, 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 pregnancy rate 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 fertility treatment.

"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.

More information

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

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

RMTC preview of Good People

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A young goose   reaches for long strands of grass Friday night near McGillvary Blvd-See Bryksa 30 Day goose challenge- Day 19 - May 23, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A goose heads for shade in the sunshine Friday afternoon at Woodsworth Park in Winnipeg - Day 26– June 22, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you agree with the province’s crackdown on flavoured tobacco products?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google