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Chemicals in Women’s Diet Affect IVF Success


18 October 2016

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New data presented at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine’s Scientific Congress shows that pesticides, artificial sweeteners, and sugar found in women’s diets can negatively affect their chances of IVF success.

Boston researchers studied IVF outcomes in relation to their patients’ intake of fruits and vegetables (FV) known to be higher or lower in pesticide residues. Food intake questionnaires were administered to 300 women undergoing IVF treatment between 2007 and 2015. The questionnaires asked about specific FV categorized as having high or low-to-moderate pesticide residues based on USDA criteria. The women’s medical records were reviewed for pregnancy and live birth data and their IVF outcomes were analyzed accounting for different treatment specifics, age, BMI smoking, exercise and alcohol intake, as well as diet.

The women ate an average of one serving of high-residue FV and 2.5 servings of low-residue FV per day. Women in the quartile consuming the fewest high-pesticide FVs had a 46% chance of having a live birth; those in the quartile consuming the most high-pesticide FVs had a 30% chance of live birth. The more high-pesticide FVs a woman consumed, the more likely she was to suffer a pregnancy loss with 46% of pregnancies lost in the highest pesticide consuming quartile compared to a 14% loss rate in the lowest pesticide consuming quartile. Eating fruits and vegetables with low to moderate pesticide residues had no effect on patients’ IVF outcomes.

Investigators in Sao Paulo, Brazil have found that both sugar and artificial sweeteners, consumed by female patients via soft drinks and in coffee, have a detrimental effect on the outcomes of IVF cycles with ICSI. 524 patients undergoing IVF with ICSI were interviewed by a nutrition professional before beginning treatment. They answered questions about the foods they consumed, including soft drinks and coffee sweetened with sugar and artificial sweeteners.

The researchers found that consumption of soft drinks containing either sugar or artificial sweeteners affected egg quality for the worse, and diet soft drinks negatively affected embryo quality and reduced implantation and pregnancy rates.  Unsweetened coffee had no effect on egg quality, implantation, or chance of pregnancy, but patients using sugar in their coffee had poorer egg quality, and patients using artificial sweetener in their coffee had poorer egg quality, embryo quality, and reduced chances of implantation and pregnancy.

Owen K. Davis, MD, President of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine noted, “A state of good health including a healthy diet is essential to IVF success. We need to educate our patients on pesticides and sweeteners. Cutting out diet soda, sweeteners, and sugar and learning about USDA’s pesticide classifications to be able to shop smarter may take some effort, but patients need to know they can improve their chances of pregnancy if they take these steps.” 

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Date Added: 18 October 2016   Date Updated: 18 October 2016
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