Reducing carbohydrates and boosting protein intake can significantly improve a woman’s chance of conception and birth after in vitro fertilization (IVF), according to a new study. This is from Medscape…
The effect is “at the egg level,” said lead investigator Jeffrey Russell, MD, from the Delaware Institute for Reproductive Medicine in Newark. He presented the findings here at American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists 61st Annual Clinical Meeting.
Carbohydrate-loaded diets create a hostile oocyte environment even before conception or implantation, he explained.
“Eggs and embryos are not going to do well in a high-glucose environment.” By lowering carbs and increasing protein, “you’re bathing your egg in good, healthy, nutritious supplements,” he said.
Dr. Russell said this study was prompted by the poor quality of embryos he was seeing in young, healthy women who came through his IVF program. “We couldn’t figure out why. They weren’t overweight, they weren’t diabetic,” he said.
The 120 women in the study, who were 36 and 37 years of age, completed a 3-day dietary log. It revealed that for some, their daily diet was 60% to 70% carbohydrates. “They were eating oatmeal for breakfast, a bagel for lunch, pasta for dinner, and no protein,” Dr. Russell explained.
Patients were categorized into 1 of 2 groups: those whose average diet was more than 25% protein (n = 48), and those whose average diet was less than 25% protein (n = 72). There was no difference in average body mass index between the 2 groups (approximately 26 kg/m²).
There were significant differences in IVF response between the 2 groups. Blastocyst development was higher in the high-protein group than in the low-protein group (64% vs 33.8%; P < .002), as were clinical pregnancy rates (66.6% vs 31.9%; P < .0005) and live birth rates (58.3% vs 11.3%; P < .0005).
When protein intake was more than 25% of the diet and carbohydrate intake was less than 40%, the clinical pregnancy rate shot up to 80%, he reported.
Dr. Russell now counsels all IVF patients to cut down on carbohydrate intake and increase protein intake.
“There is no caloric restriction, but they have to get above 25% protein. This is not a weight-loss program, it’s a nutritional program. This is not about losing weight to get pregnant, it’s about eating healthier to get pregnant,” he said.
In a study presented at the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) meeting last year, IVF patients who switched to a low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet and then underwent another cycle increased their blastocyst formation rate from 19% to 45% and their clinical pregnancy rate from 17% to 83% (Fertil Steril. 2012;98[Suppl]:S47).
Even non-IVF patients with polycystic ovarian syndrome have improved pregnancy rates after making this lifestyle change, Dr. Russell noted.