Low-Carb Diet Improves In Vitro Fertilization

Born and bread

Many women have come to see me because they’ve had difficulty conceiving. And I’m happy to report that, with dietary changes and nutritional supplementation, many of these same women were eventually able to become pregnant.

But to be honest, I never really knew why this approach worked.

I guess I just assumed that if I steered my patients toward the right nutrients, and generally reduced the amount of inflammation in their bodies, within a few months, their bodies would be friendlier places to form an embryo.
Is this an accurate explanation? Truth is, I still don’t know. But there’s an interesting new study out that may shed some light on the issue. So I’d like to tell you about it.

This new research found that cutting carbohydrates and increasing protein intake can boost a woman’s odds of conceiving and giving birth following in vitro fertilization (IVF).

The effect appears to be directly on the eggs in women’s ovaries. Apparently, high-carb diets set up a hostile environment for them, even before conception takes place.

I have to say, while I have been preaching for years about the dangers of carbohydrates, I never saw this one coming.

But I also can’t say I’m too surprised. According to the study’s lead author, neither eggs nor embryos can thrive in a high-sugar environment. But slashing carbs and boosting protein furnishes your fertilized egg with the nutrition it needs to stay healthy.

So maybe my hunches weren’t so far off after all.

This study featured over 100 subjects between 36 and 37 years of age. And it was inspired by the surprisingly high number of unhealthy embryos doctors were finding in otherwise young, healthy IVF patients.

We’re talking about women who aren’t overweight or diabetic. So what’s behind this phenomenon? A peek inside these subjects’ food journals revealed one possible answer.

Among this group of women, carbohydrates comprised as much as 60 to 70 percent of the daily diet. (A shocking number, but once again, not surprising. In my experience, women definitely tend to eat more carbs than men,)

Researchers separated subjects into two groups. One devoted more than 25 percent of their diet to protein. The other devoted less than a quarter of their diet to protein.

Yes… less than a quarter. Some of these women were practically living on carbs alone. Breakfast was oatmeal. Lunch was a bagel. Dinner was a plate of pasta. And there was no real protein in sight.

Hello!!! It’s 1995 calling, and they want their diet back! I mean, who in this day and age eats like that anymore?

Needless to say, there was a stark difference between the IVF responses of these two groups. The higher protein group benefited from significantly higher blastocyst development, pregnancy rates, and live birth rates than the low-protein group.

Ultimately, among women who devoted more than a quarter of their diet to protein–and just as importantly, who devoted less than 40 percent of their diet to carbs–pregnancy rates skyrocketed to 80 percent.

And it’s not the first time researchers have observed trends like this, either. Another study presented last year showed similar increases in fertility when women made the switch to a lower-carb, higher-protein diet.

In this previous study, blastocyst formation jumped from 19 percent to 45 percent. And pregnancy rates rose even higher, from 17 percent to 83 percent.

Even women who weren’t IVF patients–but who were struggling with complicating factors like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)–saw a fertility boom with carb restriction.

This is an incredible payoff for a simple dietary change.

Researchers admit that they were stunned to learn that the micronutrient content of a woman’s diet could possibly play a role in her ability to get pregnant. (Of course they were.)

But the results are clear as day. And, they concede, maybe it’s time to return to our basic natural diets.

Gee, that sounds awfully familiar. Now, let me see… who’s been saying the same thing for years now?

Oh, that’s right. I have.

Low-Carb Diet Improves In Vitro Fertilization. Medscape. May 08, 2013.