High-protein, low-carb diets may greatly improve fertility

A diet rich in proteins appears to have a pronounced positive effect on fertility, according to new research.

Women undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments who consumed high levels of protein and low levels of carbohydrates had better quality eggs and embryos.

couple cooking dinner in kitchen

Low-carb diet leads to four times the pregnancy rate

Research led by Jeffrey B Russell, MD, at the Delaware Institute for Reproductive Medicine (DIRM) in Newark, showed that patients whose daily protein intake was 25 percent or more of their diet and whose carbohydrate intake was 40 percent or less of their diet had four times the pregnancy rates of patients who ate less protein and more carbs daily before and during IVF cycles.

“Protein is essential for good quality embryos and better egg quality, it turns out,” says Dr Russell.

Between January 2010 and December 2011, 120 patients participating in an assisted-reproduction therapy program at DIRM completed a three-day nutritional log and had an embryo transfer. The diet diaries revealed that 48 patients had an average daily protein intake greater than 25 percent vs. 72 percent  who had less than 25 percent . No differences were found in body mass index (BMI) in either group.

Embryo development was assessed after five days of culture or at the blastocyst stage. An increased blastocyst formation was found in 54.3 percent of patients whose daily protein intake was greater than 25 percent vs. 38 percent blastocyst formation in patients whose daily protein intake was less than 25 percent. The pregnancy rate was also significantly improved in patients with greater than 25 percent daily protein intake (66.6 percent vs. 31.9 percent).

Willpower no match for cheap food, big portions

Dr Russell pointed out that although BMI is implicated in reduced fertility, he had been seeing poor-quality embryos among thin and healthy women. This made him want to take a closer look.

After patients filled out their nutritional logs, Dr Russell was surprised to see a large percentage of the women eating more than 60 percent carbs each day and 10 percent (or less) protein. These diets were associated with poor quality embryos.

Dr Russell now requires patients to eat 25 to 35 percent protein and 40 percent or less carbs for three months before allowing them to begin their IVF cycles. His colleagues have also begun doing the same, he says.

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