Can a low-carb diet improve IVF success rates?

Does protein = better egg quality?
Does protein = better egg quality?

I am a reproductive medicine research junkie. And now I am a carb counting, meat eating maniac. While it’s true that I write a fitness blog which may predispose me to diet fanaticism, I also realize that I’m a control freak. I’m known for blaming a headache on what I ate for breakfast or a bad mood on that skipped workout yesterday, as if I’m being punished for something I did or didn’t do, for something I failed to control. But maybe we don’t have that much control over our bodies, cause (gluten) and effect (hip pain) not as closely tied to that breading on the shrimp tempura in date night’s sushi roll as we’d like to think. But maybe we do. It’s possible, and  maybe even likely, that every single thing we eat, every single thing we do, directly impacts our health, from every day energy to egg quality.

The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) seems to think so, when it comes to diet at least. They presented interesting diet related research at their October 2012 68th meeting. In several studies they found that a lower carb, higher protein diet had a positive impact on embryo quality and therefore IVF success rates. For someone that was a lacto-ovo vegetarian for over 15-years this research has been eye opening. While I’ve been back on the carnivore wagon for several months now, I’ll be the first to admit that my lower sugar, higher protein consumption didn’t truly begin until I cut out gluten after reading the book Wheat Belly. Now, after ASRM’s press release, I’ve decided to reduce my carb consumption to less than 40% of my daily calorie intake (that was the amount mentioned by a blogger who attended the ASRM conference and received study details straight from the horse’s mouth). If all goes as planned, I’ve got exactly one month to protein pack my eggs until retrieval time.  With such dramatic results reported by ASRM, I figure a lower carb diet can’t hurt right?



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  1. Sherri Stone

    I just found your post while searching gluten free. I wish you good luck. I had pcos and was blessed with twins after taking clomid. I just want to encourage you on your journey. I noticed that after giving up gluten (wheat allergy) in 2005 that I’ve had more normal ovulation. Of course, I’m in my 40’s now and not trying but I really think what we eat affects our reproduction. God Bless!


    • Steph Mignon

      Even though I get teased by family and friends, this is what I believe too. You literally are what you eat! On my blog I wrote about reading the book Wheat Belly. I’ve been gluten-free ever since! I’ve lost 10 lbs. and feel great. Thanks for the follow! I’ll be following you back for sure. 🙂


  2. me

    Thank your for posting this. I just found out yesterday that our first round of IVF was unsuccessful. I have very low AMH, so not many eggs and a lower quality. I started to eat less carbs before last round but for the next one I am very determined to make my body as healthy as possible. I have about a month before starting BC again. I wish you good luck!


    • Steph Mignon

      I am so sorry to hear that, but feel honored that you shared it with me. From what I’ve read, I don’t expect our first IVF cycle to work (my husband gets SO mad at me when I say this). There are so many amazing subfertility blogs wherein women like us have tried and tried and tried. Some stick the second time, some the third, but few have luck the first time it seems. With that said, I’m in it for the long haul and it sounds like you are too! For the last week I’ve been strictly cataloging my food intake using The Daily Plate. Being a fitness and food junkie, I’ve done this before, but now I’m looking for something different than calorie consumption. I’m obsessively learning how to dramatically reduce carbs, beyond cutting out wheat as I mentioned in this blog, and discussed on FitnessWhore, my other site. It’s not easy. Getting 25% of your diet from protein, is quite a feat. I’m supplementing with protein powder in kale/almond butter smoothies, eating tons of flax crackers with peanut butter (check out Flackers at whole foods), and making sure my fridge is stocked with eggs at all times. I will make some recipes available here when I cross post from FitnessWhore (where I usually write about nutrition). If you stumble upon anything that works for you, please share! Email me or comment. 🙂 Good luck and thanks again for reaching out!


  3. marwil

    Hey, thanks for stopping by my blog. This is really interesting and I have heard the same for a low carb/high protein diet. The latest that I saw on a random comment (on a blog I can’t remember now) is that eating avocados up your success with IVF in a significant way. Have no idea if it’s true or not.


    • Steph Mignon

      Same here! Eating more protein has made all the difference for me too. If you track your protein/carb ratio it is amazing how the carbs rack up. I use the Livestrong tool because it gives you a pie chart of how much your getting from each calorie source.


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