Female, male infertility: Adherence to anti-inflammatory diets may bring new babies

Jairia Dela Cruz
21 Dec 2022
Female, male infertility: Adherence to anti-inflammatory diets may bring new babies

Anti-inflammatory dietary patterns, such as the Mediterranean diet, may improve the chances of conception among couples who struggle with infertility, according to a recent review.

There is consistent evidence to suggest that adherence to anti-inflammatory diets, where intake of monounsaturated and n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and flavonoids is increased while consumption of red and processed meat is decreased, increases fertility, assisted reproductive technology (ART) success, and sperm quality in men, reported a team of investigators from Australia. [Nutrients 2022;doi:10.3390/nu14193914]

“The specific mechanisms whereby anti-inflammatory components may directly influence fertility outcomes remain unclear. Findings from observational studies indicate (although inconsistently) that these anti-inflammatory dietary patterns attenuate pro-inflammatory markers during pregnancy and the preconception period,” according to the investigators.

“Therefore, the effects of anti-inflammatory diets and their constituents on inflammation are likely related to the diverse and synergistic relationships between the array of vitamins and minerals, fatty acids, phytochemicals, and other non-nutritive compounds (eg, carotenoids and flavonoids) that may modulate inflammatory processes,” they added.

The Mediterranean diet follows an anti-inflammatory pattern. Largely plant-based, it includes whole grains, extra virgin olive oil, fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes, nuts, herbs, and spices. Meanwhile, yoghurt, cheese, lean protein sources (fish, chicken, or eggs), and red and processed meats are eaten in small amounts.

In comparison, a Western diet is high in excessive saturated fats, refined carbohydrates, and animal proteins. Aside from being energy-dense, this dietary pattern lacks dietary fibre, vitamins, and minerals and is associated with higher levels of inflammation.

“[A]dherence to Western dietary patterns is thought to be involved in the upregulation of several genes (interleukin [IL]-6, IL-1β, tumour necrosis factor [TNF]) involved in pro-inflammatory pathways. These inflammatory mediators play an important role in complex physiological actions which regulate whole-body metabolism, including satiety, glucose disposal, fatty acid oxidation, and adipose tissue lipolysis,” the investigators noted.

“It has been proposed that these pro-inflammatory pathways may be related to poor fertility outcomes in both men and women,” they added.

Simon Alesi, a Monash University researcher and one of the study investigators, believes that understanding the association between anti-inflammatory diets, such as the Mediterranean diet, and fertility could be a game changer for couples hoping to start a family.

“The Mediterranean diet is consistently ranked among the healthiest diets in the world. But knowing that it may also boost your chances of conceiving and having a baby is extremely promising,” Alesi said.

“Modifying your diet is a nonintrusive and affordable strategy that could potentially improve infertility… Of course, more research needs to be done, but at the very least, shifting to a Mediterranean diet will not only improve your overall health, but also your chances of conceiving,” he added.

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