Countless Americans and individuals around the world have adopted what nutritionists and marketers call a “Mediterranean style diet” – one that is rich in a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish, healthy oils, and legumes – as a means of losing excess body weight or maintaining their current weight if it is at a healthy level.
Indeed, the Mediterranean diet is an excellent dietary lifestyle choice for individuals that are in the pursuit of weight loss, as it’s ideal for decreasing the overall total calories consumed per day while helping to ensure a well balanced intake of a variety of important vitamins and minerals. In addition, clinical evidence has even linked the Mediterranean diet to lowered risks of heart disease, diabetes, bone density loss, as well as other obesity type related illnesses, while improving brain function and health.
Another Benefit of the Mediterranean Diet? Who Knew?
The findings of a recent study are pointing to one more reason why the Mediterranean diet is worth a closer look – as a diet to increase fertility. The study, conducted in Spain, indicates that women that closely follow the Mediterranean diet may have less trouble becoming and staying pregnant.
The Mediterranean Diet vs. the Western Diet
During the study, Spanish researchers examined a total of about 2,100 women. Around 1,600 of the women had one or more children, while the other 500 women had fertility problems. All of the women were of roughly the same age.
The women received questionnaires asking how closely they followed either the Mediterranean diet or a more traditional Western-style diet. In this case, a Western-style diet was defined as one that included red meat, potatoes, refined grains (such as white bread), full-fat dairy products, fast food and soda sweetened with sugar.
Among women who followed a traditional Western diet, fertility rates remained relatively constant regardless of how closely the diet was followed.
However, fertility rates varied more heavily for women who said that they generally stuck to a Mediterranean diet. Of those who adhered most meticulously, 17% said that they’d had difficulty getting pregnant. Of those who adhered least closely, 26% said the same.
A “Protective Effect on Insulin Resistance”
According to Dr. Estefania Toledo, a nutritionist at Spain’s University of Navarra and one of the study’s lead researchers, the Mediterranean diet may help to boost fertility rates because of its “protective effect on insulin resistance,” and that it could also help to prevent Type 2 diabetes.
Insulin resistance is a negative condition in which the cells of the body have difficulty absorbing sugar via the blood stream. The Mediterranean diet is rich in nutrients that assist the body in absorbing sugars without resorting to the use of too much insulin.
Researchers also said that insulin is related to ovulation, defined as the time when the ovary releases an egg ready for fertilization. Insulin regulates the quantity of hormones required for ovulation, a process that’s easier for your body to balance when you’re getting the kinds of nutrients easily found in the Mediterranean diet.
Important News for Men, Too
According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), over 6 million women (of childbearing age) in the United States have difficulty becoming or staying pregnant.
However, men shouldn’t forget that they contribute to the fertility equation as well. According to Dr. Jorge Chavarro of the Harvard School of Public Health, men who are overweight tend to have lower sperm counts than men who are of a normal weight. If you and your significant other are having difficulty conceiving, be sure to take this factor into consideration.
Diet to Increase Fertility: The Bottom Line
The Spanish researchers admitted that their study was based on observation, not experiment, and that their findings were therefore subject to some degree of uncertainty. However, regardless of its impact on fertility, it’s easy to see why the Mediterranean diet is considerably healthier than the Western-style diet.
By replacing items such as fast food, full-fat dairy products, sugary sodas and refined carbohydrates with whole grains, fish, fruit and vegetables, you’ll lose weight, ward off disease, and maybe even increase your chances of having a baby.