Whole grains are good for you

Is there a diet you should follow to promote fertility? The Environment and Reproductive Health (EARTH) study is trying to answer this question. Since 2006, women at a Boston IVF program are being studied with questionnaires on diet, lifestyle, and other environmental factors that might impact fertility. Some results from this work are starting to be released. This month in Fertility & Sterility, a paper titled "Maternal Whole Grain Intake and Outcomes of In Vitro Fertilization" was published and it suggests that eating whole grains might increase your chances of success with IVF.

The following foods and ingredients were considered whole grains: whole wheat and whole wheat flour, whole oats and whole oat flour, whole cornmeal and whole corn meal flour, whole rye and whole rye flour, whole barley, bulgur, buckwheat, brown rice and brown rice flour, popcorn, amaranth, and psyllium.

Prior to starting an IVF cycle, 273 women answered a questionnaire on their intake of these whole grains. They were average 35.4 years old with a BMI of 24.2 kg/m2. Their IVF outcome was examined based on the questionnaire answers.

Women who ate the most whole grains had a 53% live birth rate, compared to 35% for women with the lowest whole grain intake. The best whole grain to consume was bran and the main difference that was observed was in the thickness of the uterine lining (endometrium) during IVF. It seems that whole grains, and mainly the bran part, has phytoestrogen (natural estrogn) activity. The other mechanisms by which whole grains might increase IVF success is as anti-oxidants and by regulating insulin.

Whatever the mechanism, increasing whole grains is a good idea before and during IVF treatment. We will keep watching to see what else is learned through the EARTH study and will pass along any advice!

Reference: Gaskins AJ, Chiu YH, Williams PL, Keller MG, Toth TL, Hauser R, Chavarro JE; EARTH Study Team. Maternal whole grain intake and outcomes of in vitro fertilization. Fertil Steril. 2016 Jun;105(6):1503-1510