Excessive dietary fat intake can harm success of IVF procedures

The Harvard School of Public Health’s recent study on dietary intake bares a startling truth about reproductive health — women who consume more dietary saturated fats have far fewer mature oocytes to collect for an in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedure.

Conducted with funding from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the study examined the effect of dietary fat (classified as total, saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, omega 6, omega 3 and trans) on an array of preclinical and clinical outcomes for women participating in the IVF process. Polyunsaturated fats were noted to have an inverse relationship with embryo quality, and women who consumed more total fat had fewer metaphase II oocytes retrieved when compared to subjects who did not consume a great deal of fat.

The report was conducted among 147 women undergoing the fertility treatment at the Massachusetts General Hospital Fertility Center. Researchers performed a number of preclinical inspections on each of the subjects in the arenas of oocyte development, fertilization, embryo quality and cleavage rate. All women who submitted to an embryo transfer had their statuses recorded in the clinical realms of pregnancy and live birth as well. Participants were divvied into tertiles outlying their of fat intake and the results were controlled for different sources of energy, infertility diagnosis, ovarian stimulation protocol, body mass index and positions on smoking.

In a presentation July 3 during the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology, Jorge Chavarro, MD, assistant professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health, spoke of the results as inciting little astonishment.

"We were not entirely surprised that different types of fat were associated with different outcomes," he said. "One advantage of assisted reproduction as a model for the study of human fertility is that it allows the examination of factors possibly related to interactions between the embryo and the endometrium independently of other factors related to early embryo development or ovarian response to stimulation.”

Given the troubled history existent between dietary fat intake and reproductive health — high levels of trans-fat intake had long been linked to ovulation infertility and miscarriage, and saturated fats were recognized as instigators for lower sperm concentrations — most experts assumed that fertility treatment would generate similar findings despite the lack of research conducted on the matter. In his closing statements, Chavarro spoke of the need for more research to help further finalize a recommendation regimen for IVF patients.

"While these results are interesting, this is the first time to our knowledge that dietary fats have been linked to treatment outcome in IVF. So it is important that our results are replicated in other studies before making strong recommendations about fat intake to women having infertility treatment."

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