Does diet make a difference for IVF?

Does diet make a difference for IVF

When it comes to diets, there are many varieties to choose from, including weight loss, cholesterol-lowering, diabetes management plans, and foods to nourish endurance athletes. Now there is a diet developed by a two doctors who claim it can increase a woman’s chances of having a baby.

It was developed by Harvard School of Public Health faculty members Drs. Jorge Chavarro and Walter Willett based on their thorough data analysis of the Nurses’ Health Study, one of the largest and most exhaustive studies of women’s health in the country.

More than 18,000 women who were attempting to get pregnant but had no history of infertility participated in this diet study by these two experts. They later discovered that your diet’s quality, level of activity, and whether or not you smoke can influence the breeding process. 

In their book, “The Fertility Diet: Breakthrough Research Reveals Natural Ways to Increase Ovulation and Increase Your Chances of Conceiving,” Chavarro and Willett warn those who are having problems conceiving that “high-tech therapy is not the only answer.” (1)

What do other experts say?

According to some specialists, Chavarro and Willett’s diet can aid in improving fertility for women who suffer from ovulation abnormalities such as polycystic ovarian syndrome.

According to Vandana Sheth, a registered dietitian nutritionist with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “this is an overall healthy way of eating and can help women enhance their consumption of key nutrients for conception and pregnancy.” 

The diet has great aspects, according to experts, but some wonder if the main advantage comes from weight loss rather than from eating healthy food. (2)

Does being overweight affect fertility?

The quality of eggs can be impacted by being overweight. 

The formation of follicles and ovulation are regulated by the hormones such as insulin, testosterone, FSH, and LH, which are more frequently out of balance in overweight or obese women. 

There is evidence to support the idea that losing weight and promoting ovulation can help with these issues, but little evidence exists to draw firm conclusions about whether diets are more effective than others. 

“I enjoy dairy products with 2% or full fat. If you’re trying to get pregnant, it’s better than skim or 1% and keeps you feeling fuller longer, according to McKittrick. However, she advises eliminating one ounce of meat or one-third of a cup of starch from your diet altogether to reduce calories. (3)

How weight impacts fertility

Body mass index (BMI) plays a significant role in fertility for both genders. In women, excess body fat can lead to hormonal imbalances, disrupting regular ovulation and affecting egg quality. Consequently, these hormonal changes may cause irregular menstrual cycles or even anovulation, where ovulation does not occur. For men, carrying extra weight can detrimentally affect sperm, reducing count, motility, and even altering their shape. These factors combined make conceiving a challenge.

Interestingly, the solution may lie in achieving a healthier weight. For most individuals, striving for a balanced BMI can significantly improve fertility outcomes. Research underscores the benefits of even modest weight loss. Shedding just 5-10% of body weight can markedly boost the likelihood of conception. This approach not only enhances the effectiveness of IVF but also contributes to overall well-being.

  • Women: Overweight conditions disrupt hormone production, affecting ovulation.
  • Men: Excess weight impairs sperm quality, impacting count and mobility.

Thus, maintaining an optimal weight through a nutritious diet and regular physical activity becomes essential for couples undergoing IVF. This lifestyle adjustment not only paves the way for a successful pregnancy but also fosters a healthier environment for the child’s development. In conclusion, a focus on diet and weight management is indispensable in the quest for fertility, especially when considering IVF.


Moran, L., Tsagareli, V., Norman, R., & Noakes, M. (2011). Diet and IVF pilot study: short‐term weight loss improves pregnancy rates in overweight/obese women undertaking IVF. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 51(5), 455-459.

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