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expert reaction to study looking at Mediterranean diet and IVF success rates

Publishing in Human Reproduction, researchers assess whether adherence to the Mediterranean diet is associated with better IVF performance in women attempting fertility.


Prof. Adam Balen, Professor of Reproductive Medicine and Surgery, Leeds Centre for Reproductive Medicine, said:

“This is interesting research that, although having limitations in that diet was analysed using a single, self-reported assessment which can lead to increased measurement error and the fact it was an observational study rather than a randomised control trial, showed a significant association between adherence to a Mediterranean diet and live birth rates.

“It contributes to growing evidence that diet and lifestyle affect both natural fertility and IVF outcomes.  Measuring overall diet rather than individual vitamins, minerals, or food-groups that can impact fertility gives us a more realistic picture of what patients can do to improve their chances of having a baby.  It also shows that an interaction between different types of food, which may be exerting their effects on different aspects of the reproductive pathway, could potentially offer greater benefit than any one nutrient or food type.

“There is no ‘silver bullet’, but it is likely that changing the multiple known modifiable factors that impact male and female fertility can lead to marginal gains that accumulate to produce significantly improved outcomes.”


Dr Jane Stewart, Chair, British Fertility Society said:

“A Mediterranean diet – one rich in vegetables; fish; legumes such as peas, beans and lentils; and vegetable oils – has long been thought of as a healthy approach to eating.

“For good reproductive health, an appropriate well balanced diet should be recommended and it is perhaps not surprising then that there is some benefit seen from following this example.

“The authors quite clearly describe the limitations of their study and are making no greater recommendations than to follow a healthy diet.”


Dr Richard Kennedy, President of the International Federation of Fertility Societies (IFFS), said:

“This study supports the increasing recognition of the impact of dietary factors on reproduction.  Taken together with the known effects of lifestyle and environmental factors the opportunities to improve reproductive outcomes are clear.”


Prof. Nick Macklon, Medical Director of London Womens’ Clinic and Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Copenhagen, Zealand University Hospital, said:

“This study adds further to a growing body of data from similar studies that have suggested an association between a ‘Mediterranean’ diet and IVF outcomes. The findings replicate those of previous similar studies of similar size and in that sense does not provide significant new insights. However, as the authors rightly state, it again highlights the likely benefits of elements of the Mediterranean diet to general health which is likely in turn to improve fertility. There is a pressing need for well-designed intervention studies to confirm whether the diet itself is improving outcomes, or whether it is simply a marker of a healthier lifestyle and better health.”


* ‘Adherence to the Mediterranean diet and IVF success rate among non-obese women attempting fertility’ by name of first author et al. will be published in Human Reproduction on Tuesday 30th January.


All our previous output on this subject can be seen at this weblink:


Declared interests

Prof. Adam Balen: “No conflicts to declare on this”

None received.


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