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Do omega-3 fats improve IVF embryo outcomes?

In a nutshell

This study looked at omega-3 fats and vitamin D supplements for couples undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF). This study found that these added nutrients resulted in healthier embryos.

Some background

The diets of both men and women can affect fertility. Studies have found that diets high in vegetables and omega-3 fats may improve fertility. Previous studies suggest that certain parts of the Meditteranean diet, such as olive oil, omega-3, and vitamin D may contribute to fertility. Whether these nutrients impact embryo development in IVF is unclear.

Methods & findings

This study included 111 couples undergoing IVF. Couples were divided into two groups. In Group A, 55 couples were given a smoothie containing omega-3 fats and vitamin D to drink every day. This group was told to cook with olive oil. In Group B, 56 couples were given a smoothie without extra omega-3 to drink every day. This group was told to cook with sunflower oil. Both groups used the smoothies and oil for six weeks prior to IVF. 

On average, an average of 10 oocytes (eggs) was retrieved from women in Group A compared to 11 oocytes from women in Group B. In both groups, an average of 6 oocytes was successfully fertilized.

A total of 750 embryos were analyzed in this study. This included 356 embryos in Group A, and 394 embryos in Group B. Overall, 64.9% (Group A) and 65.0% (Group B) of embryos formed a blastocyst. The blastocyst is the last stage of development before the embryo is implanted into a woman's uterus.

One measure of the health of an embryo is the length of time it takes the cells to divide. There was no difference in the length of the second cell cycle between both study groups. However, the fourth cell cycle was significantly shorter in Group A. The embryos in Group A also appeared significantly more normal under a microscope compared to Group B.

There was no significant difference in live birth rates between both groups (42%, Group A vs. 33%, Group B).

Methods & findings
The bottom line

The study found that adding omega-3s and vitamin D to the diets of couples undergoing IVF resulted in healthier and more normal embryos.

The fine print

This study was not designed to measure pregnancy outcomes directly. Also, six weeks is a short amount of time for a diet intervention. More studies are needed to confirm these results

What’s next?

Discuss diet and supplement use, including omega-3, with your doctor.

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Published By: Fertility and Sterility
Date: Nov 11, 2020
Original Title: Effect of a 6-week “Mediterranean” dietary intervention on in vitro human embryo development: the Preconception Dietary Supplements in Assisted Reproduction double-blinded randomized controlled trial.

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