Med Diet May Boost Fertility; the Updated Med Diet Pyramid

Women who eat a Mediterranean-style diet rich in vegetables, vegetable oils, fish and legumes may have better odds of becoming pregnant while undergoing infertility treatment, a new study suggests.

© 2009 Oldways Preservation & Exchange Trust

And, if you haven’t heard, the Mediterranean diet pyramid recently underwent a change: It’s been updated to reflect the latest health and scientific data. Pictured here, olive oil has moved up in importance – by moving down to the pyramid’s base.

The fertility study, in the journal Fertility and Sterility, followed 161 Dutch couples undergoing fertility treatment. Dutch researchers found that women who ate a diet most closely matching the Mediterranean diet were 40% more likely to get pregnant versus those who least followed the regimen. A Mediterranean diet was defined as high in vegetable oils, vegetables, fish, and legumes and low in snacks.

Because of the way the study was conducted, however, the results don’t prove a Mediterranean-like diet will boost the success rate of fertility treatment.

Still, the high intake of vegetable oils may be part of the reason behind the higher pregnancy rate.

“The omega-6 fatty acids in these oils, the researchers note, are precursors to hormone-like substances in the body called prostaglandins,” according to Reuters. “Prostaglandins, in turn, are involved in the menstrual cycle, ovulation and pregnancy maintenance.”

The study also found that women most closely following the Mediterranean diet had higher levels of vitamin B6, which may help with conception.

The updated Mediterranean diet pyramid, meanwhile, combines the original pyramid with the latest health and scientific studies.

Here are the key changes, according to Oldways, the Boston food think tank that was among the groups behind the launch of the original pyramid 17 years ago:

  1. All plant foods – fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, legumes, seeds, olives, and olive oil – were combined in a single group and placed at the base. The change was meant to signal these foods “should be the basis of most meals.”
  2. The recommended consumption of fish and shellfish was increased to two times a week, “indicating their multiple contributions to brain and reproductive organ health.”
  3. Herbs and spices were added to reflect “increased evidence of their health-promoting properties” and their role in making foods taste better.

The pyramid also emphasizes the importance of physical activity and enjoying meals with family and friends.

The “classic” Mediterranean diet and the original pyramid were unveiled in 1993 by Oldways, the Harvard School of Public Health, and the European Office of the World Health Organization.

Bon appétit,

Claude S. Weiller
Vice President of Sales & Marketing
California Olive Ranch