Infertility affects many couples. It’s no secret that the right diet can improve fertility. With an emphasis on fruits, vegetables and legumes, the Mediterranean diet has long been praised for its multiple health benefits. Research shows that it can also help overcome infertility, making it a good strategy for couples trying to conceive.
Mediterranean Diet Improves Fertility
The review, conducted by Monash University, the University of the Sunshine Coast and the University of South Australia, found that the Mediterranean diet can improve fertility, assisted reproductive technology success and sperm quality in men. In particular, the scientists found that the anti-inflammatory properties of a Mediterranean diet can improve couples’ chances of conceiving. Research has found that inflammation can affect fertility in both men and women, affecting sperm quality, the menstrual cycle, and implantation.
However, an anti-inflammatory diet high in polyunsaturated or healthy fats, flavonoids (like green leafy vegetables), and a limited amount of red and processed meat can have positive effects on fertility. The Mediterranean diet is primarily plant based and includes whole grains, extra virgin olive oil, fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes, nuts, herbs and spices. Yogurt, cheese and lean protein sources like fish, chicken, or eggs; red and processed meat is eaten only in small amounts. In comparison, a Western diet includes excess saturated fat, refined carbohydrates, and animal protein, making it high in energy and lacking in fiber, vitamins and minerals. Typically, the Western diet is associated with higher levels of inflammation.
Link Between Amino Acids, Estrogen Receptor Signaling in the Liver and Fertility
Did you know that the liver is also important for fertility? When you think of organs that play an important role in reproduction, you most likely don’t think of the liver. But a report in the journal Cell Metabolism, a publication by Cell Press, shows that estrogen receptors in the liver are critical to maintaining fertility. In addition, the expression of these receptors is under the control of dietary amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. The findings in mice could have important implications for some forms of infertility and for metabolic changes associated with menopause. Scientists had known that the liver expresses estrogen receptors and that these receptors play some role in metabolism, but these receptors have not received much attention for a long time. In studies on mice, the researchers saw that the organ that always had the highest activation of the estrogen receptor was the liver. At first they thought it must be a mistake and ignored it, but over time they began to think that maybe the mice were telling them something.
They report that the expression of these estrogen receptors depends on dietary amino acids. Mice on a calorie-restricted diet and those lacking estrogen receptors in their livers showed a decrease in a key hormone known as IGF-1. Blood levels of the hormone dropped to levels that are insufficient for proper growth of the endometrium and normal progression of the oestrus cycle, they show. When the calorie-restricted mice were given more protein, their reproductive cycles restarted. Dietary fats and carbohydrates, on the other hand, had no effect on estrogen receptors or fertility.
Researchers believe this link between amino acids, estrogen receptor signaling in the liver and reproductive function may have clinical implications. For example, this could explain why anorexic people are more likely to be infertile in general. It suggests that a diet high in carbohydrates and low in protein can affect fertility. The results also provide clues to understanding the increased risk of metabolic and inflammatory diseases in menopausal women.