A diet high in fish, cereals, omega-3 and folic acid reduces the probability of miscarriage by 13 to 15%

This dietary pattern is designed to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease and other chronic conditions. The results of the study, led by the URV, were obtained in women who were undergoing infertility treatments

A heart-healthy diet is associated with a lower risk of pregnancy loss. This is the main conclusion of a study led by the Food, Nutrition, Development and Mental Health research group of the Universitat Rovira i Virgili, which studied the effects of different healthy diets on the gestational health of women who had been undergoing infertility treatments. The results suggest that following the diet recommended by the American Heart Association (AHA) – high in fish, whole grains, omega-3 fatty acids and folic acid – before pregnancy decreases the chance of miscarriage by 13-15%. The results of this study have been published in the scientific journal JAMA Network Open.

Infertility is a health problem for couples worldwide, with an estimated prevalence of 12% to 15% and increasing. This problem is potentially influenced by lifestyle and environmental factors, such as air pollution and obesity. Although current scientific evidence indicates that some foods or nutrients can improve the results of the main infertility treatments in women, the role played by dietary patterns, the way you eat, is largely unknown. In this regard, a research team from the fields of nutrition, epidemiology and environmental health set out to investigate whether women’s adherence to healthy dietary patterns designed to prevent cardiovascular and chronic diseases is associated with better results of infertility treatment.

The research team from the URV’s research group Food, Nutrition, Development and Mental Health and a team from the departments of Nutrition, Epidemiology and Environmental Health of Harvard University decided to check whether a healthy dietary pattern could be related to a lower probability of suffering pregnancy loss during infertility treatments.


Albert Salas-Huetos
The URV researcher Albert Salas-Huetos has headed the research.

To this end, they attempted to determine whether any of the eight main globally validated healthy dietary patterns are associated with a better chance of having a live child and a lower risk of pregnancy loss. They studied a sample of 612 women aged 18 to 45 who underwent the main infertility treatments: intrauterine injection and in vitro fertilization. The patients underwent more than 1,500 cycles; 804 of the former treatment and 768 cycles of the latter.

The research team first analysed the diet of the women and their partners during the stage prior to assisted reproduction treatments. Then they went on to analyse the extent to which the women followed one of the eight selected dietary patterns and observed that those who most followed the pattern recommended by the AHA (American Heart Association) for cardiovascular prevention were 13-15% less likely to miscarriage than those who did not.

Among other things, the AHA pattern is characterised by a high consumption of fish, whole grains, omega-3 fatty acids and folic acid. “It is a varied diet, with no restrictions on any food group. The study has confirmed that regularly ingesting these nutrients and foods is associated with a lower risk of suffering a miscarriage during assisted reproduction cycles, so they are essential for human reproduction”, points out Albert Salas-Huetos, lecturer at the URV’s Preventive Medicine Unit and principal researcher at the Biomedical Research Centre (Cyber) of the Carlos III Institute and the Pere Virgili Health Research Institute.

Although no significant associations were found, it was also observed that the trend is very similar in the other healthy dietary patterns studied, with the exception of the plant-based vegetarian diet. “In this case, the difference between the heart-healthy diet recommended by the AHA and the vegetarian diet is the absence of foods such as fish and meat, foods that contain vitamin B12 or omega3,” the researcher points out.

Carried out in collaboration with researchers from the University of Girona and the Massachusetts General Hospital, this research also suggests that these results provide information that may be useful for designing future studies into the effects that nutritional interventions can have on human fertility.

Reference: Salas-Huetos A, Mitsunamy M, Wang S, et al; EARTH Study Team. Women’s adherence to healthy dietary patterns and outcomes of infertility treatment. JAMA Netw Open. 2023;6(8);e2329982. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.29982

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