Our Medical Director, Michael Ah-Moye, had the pleasure of attending the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) annual meeting in Lisbon last week.
The event brings together some of the world’s top fertility experts. During the course of its four-day schedule several new fertility research studies were released, validating some of the most prevalent fertility theories new and old.
One of the most well-known principles of good fertility concerns our consumption of fruit and vegetables. The overall health benefits of a diet full of fresh fruit and vegetables have been common knowledge for some time. Ever since the Department of Health launched its ‘Five-a-day’ campaign in 1994 we have all strived to get our recommended daily fill of natural goodness.
It is only more recently that poor diet and lifestyle choices have been linked to infertility. New research presented at ESHRE 2015 by Professor Andrea Salonia, Director of the Urological Research Institute at the IRCCS hospital in Milan, has confirmed that diet definitely does affect both male and female fertility. Professor Salonia studied the fertility of 1,134 individuals over a 12-month period, analysing their recreational and nutritional habits against whether they conceived within the 12 months or not.
The results show a clear relationship between lifestyle,
healthy eating and fertility.
The more fertile men and women all consumed more fruit, vegetables and eggs than those that were infertile. The biggest difference in fertility came from female consumption of fruit. Of the fertile women included in the study, 73% claimed to eat at least five portions of fruit a week, while only 53% of the infertile women ate as much.
Cereals, red meat, poultry and fish were all found to have little impact on male and female fertility. Professor Salonia was keen to stress that a balanced diet is still the best option for fertility health, although there are clear links between improved sperm development and diets rich in zinc (found in legumes) and selenium (found in eggs). Avoiding trans fats is another positive dietary change both men and women can make to improve their overall fertility.
The report also confirmed some age-old theories about the impact of smoking, alcohol and illicit drugs on male and female fertility. Just 9% of female smokers were fertile, while 72% of the fertile men were non-smokers. The vast majority of fertile women drank less than one litre of alcohol a week, while 65% of infertile men drank more than one litre of alcohol a week.
Illicit drug use was found to have a greater effect on women than on men. Of the fertile female subjects, 84% had not taken illicit drugs in the past, whereas 78% of the infertile women had used drugs in the past. Of the infertile male subjects, 43% reported past drug use.
Perhaps the more interesting piece of research released at #ESHRE2015 concerned the academic performance of children conceived through assisted reproduction technologies (ART).
The study, which is the first of its kind conducted on such a large scale, revealed no difference in the high-school test scores of children born naturally and those born through techniques such as IVF.
The subjects were all Danish students aged 15 or 16. The test scores of 8,251 students conceived through ART were compared with the scores of 10,000 naturally conceived students. Both study groups included twins and singletons.
The report concludes that children and teenagers conceived through ART are no more likely to have a lower IQ or worse academic performance than those conceived naturally. This will reassure couples and individuals who may have previously been concerned that their children’s’ academic potential would be limited by their being born via IVF (or similar ART treatments).
The important thing to take from both studies is that, if you feel things aren’t progressing as they should, there is no reason not to try assisted reproduction treatments, such as IVF.
If your diet and lifestyle could be improved, then we recommend that you make the changes to improve it sooner rather than later. But if you haven’t conceived after a year of trying, especially if you already lead a healthy lifestyle, then it may be time to assess your fertility and to find out what fertility treatments are available to you.
There are some fertility issues that no amount of fruit and vegetables can reverse, so if you are already approaching your late 30s, you may be wasting precious time that could be put to good use while your eggs and sperm are still at their best.