Trying to conceive and failing repeatedly can be rather stressful for both parties involved. Now, a new study from the University of Australia suggests a possible solution: the much-touted Mediterranean diet! A change in diet might be all that is needed to take you from going through the toils and struggles of trying to conceive to finally starting a family.

According to the study published in the journal Nutrients, a switch from processed and pre-packaged foods to consuming plant-based foods like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables guarantees a truckload of health benefits. One of which includes increased fertility in both men and women. Importantly, it achieves this by lowering inflammation.

One commonly overlooked cause of infertility and poor reproductive health in both men and women is inflammation. A recent study showed that over 70 percent of unexplained infertility cases in the United States have been linked to high levels of inflammation and oxidative stress. 

Processed foods commonly dubbed ‘Western diets’ have been shown to trade in palatability for sound health, as seen in spikes in cardiovascular illness, diabetes, and massive drops in fertility.  These foods particularly when consumed in copious amounts over a long period, upregulate several genes known to be instrumental in proinflammatory pathways and spikes in oxidative stress.

Mediterranean diets on the other hand offer a non-invasive and cost-effective solution to the problem of infertility. The study authors believe that the anti-inflammatory regulatory properties of plant-based foods like whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats, improve fertility, assisted reproductive technology (ART), and sperm quality in men

“Research shows inflammation can affect 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,” says study author Dr. Evangeline Mantzioris.

Embedded deep within plant-rich diets like berries, fish, and grain carbohydrates are monosaturated fats, flavonoids, vitamins C and E, and polyphenols, all known to be perfectly capable of keeping inflammation and oxidative stress at bay. 

The study’s researchers gathered that the ability of the phytoconstituents to lower inflammation and oxidative stress increased the odds of conception in the following ways: (1) Improved menstrual cycle regularity and reduced bleeding (2) Alleviating symptoms and severity of endometriosis (3) Improving the quality of embryos produced from IVF (4) Improve men’s sperm count, motility, and morphology

Takeaway

Mediterranean diets, ranked among the healthiest diets worldwide, might not exactly guarantee conception, but it sure does improve the odds. The numerous health benefits it provides alongside its ability to down-regulate the release of inflammatory mediators provide the extra boost needed to improve fertility, especially when employed as an adjunctive therapy to pharmacological and surgical interventions. 

Written by

Medically Reviewed by