High Protein, Low Carb Diets Greatly Improve Fertility

May 6, 2013

New Orleans, LA -- A diet rich in proteins appears to have a pronounced positive effect on fertility, according to new research presented today at the Annual Clinical Meeting of The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Women undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments who consumed high levels of protein and low levels of carbohydrates had better quality eggs and embryos.

Research led by Jeffrey B. Russell, MD, at the Delaware Institute for Reproductive Medicine (DIRM) in Newark, showed that patients whose daily protein intake was 25% or more of their diet and whose carbohydrate intake was 40% or less of their diet had four times the pregnancy rates of patients who ate less protein and more carbs daily before and during IVF cycles.

“Protein is essential for good quality embryos and better egg quality, it turns out,” said Dr. Russell. Between January 2010 and December 2011, 120 patients participating in an assisted-reproduction therapy program at DIRM completed a three-day nutritional log and had an embryo transfer. The diet diaries revealed that 48 patients had an average daily protein intake greater than 25% vs. 72% who had less than 25%. No differences were found in body mass index (BMI) in either group.

Embryo development was assessed after five days of culture or at the blastocyst stage. An increased blastocyst formation was found in 54.3% of patients whose daily protein intake was greater than 25% vs. 38% blastocyst formation in patients whose daily protein intake was less than 25%. The pregnancy rate was also significantly improved in patients with greater than 25% daily protein intake (66.6 % vs. 31.9%).

Dr. Russell pointed out that although BMI is implicated in reduced fertility, he had been seeing poor quality embryos among thin and healthy women. This made him want to take a closer look. After patients filled out their nutritional logs, Dr. Russell was surprised to see a large percentage of the women eating more than 60% carbs each day and 10% (or less) protein. These diets were associated with poor quality embryos.

Dr. Russell now requires patients to eat 25% to 35% protein and 40% or less carbs for three months before allowing them to begin their IVF cycles. His colleagues have also begun doing the same, he said.

YouTube Hear more with Dr. Russell.

*Monday Poster #96: Daily Protein Content Correlates with Increased Fertility and Pregnancy Outcome

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (The College), a 501(c)(3) organization, is the nation’s leading group of physicians providing health care for women. As a private, voluntary, nonprofit membership organization of more than 57,000 members, The College strongly advocates for quality health care for women, maintains the highest standards of clinical practice and continuing education of its members, promotes patient education, and increases awareness among its members and the public of the changing issues facing women’s health care. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), a 501(c)(6) organization, is its companion organization.


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