IVF Babble

Egg Quality and Nutrition For The Over 35’s…Whats Best To Eat?

By Sue Bedford (MSc Nutritional Therapy)

Egg Quality over Egg Quantity is key in the over 35’s. As a woman ages, both egg quantity (the number of eggs a woman has available for fertilisation, also known as ovarian reserve) and egg quality (the eggs that are genetically normal) decrease. This decline begins to accelerate between the ages of 35 and 37, and then begins to decline dramatically after the age of 40.

A decrease in egg quality means that, while eggs are still available after the ages of 35 and 40, a higher percentage of them may be damaged. As a result, the chromosomes are defective and incapable of producing a normal pregnancy and a healthy baby.

This means that, despite having thousands of eggs, most women are no longer able to become pregnant naturally by their mid-40s.

Lifestyle and good nutrition are important

Consuming a healthy, nutrient dense, colourful balanced diet (along with taking some key supplements) is crucial in producing and maintaining healthy eggs, to help conceive and raise a healthy baby. The increasing demands of a modern lifestyle can have a substantial impact on our nutritional health and fertility.

Smoking, environmental toxins, poor gut health, lack of sleep, alcohol, a lack of exercise, dieting, and poor nutrition all have can affect the body’s ability to absorb the nutrients necessary for optimal reproductive health.

For as little as three months before trying to conceive, improving nutrition and lifestyle can make a considerable improvement to Egg Health

In relation to fertility, following a Mediterranean type diet, supplemented where necessary, is key to optimal nutrition pre conception. When preparing for conception, nutrients are vital for optimising egg health and for establishing optimum conditions for conception and implantation. These nutrients play an important role in the development of the egg, womb and hormonal system. Each month, the reproductive and hormonal cycle develop an egg cell and prepare the womb (lining), and a range of other processes need to happen to create the right fertile balance. Without these nutrients, this delicate balance can be disrupted.

Can nutrition really make a difference?

Yes! Recent research has now linked improved nutrition to better fertility outcomes, such as improving egg and embryo quality as well as higher rates of implantation. A healthy, colourful balanced diet containing seafood, leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables can lead to better fertility outcomes in both men and women.

What are the key nutrients needed for healthy eggs?

The key important nutrients needed for healthy eggs include folate/folic acid: (ideally in the form of methyl-folate), antioxidants including co-q10, omega 3, amino acids, vitamins and minerals.

Folate (Vitamin B9)

Folate is found naturally in many foods such as leafy greens, seafood, poultry, nuts, and seeds and is extremely important for foetal development. It is water soluble and so passes out of the body in the urine thus needs to be replaced daily.  Folate is important as it helps to prevent spina bifida in the developing foetus, and it works closely with vitamin B12 to manufacture DNA and RNA (genetic material). Vitamin B6 is also linked to improving fertility and so it is important that your chosen fertility supplement contains the B vitamin complex in it.

Take folate in the form of Methylfolate wherever possible when choosing a supplement as it’s the already-converted, most active form of folate the body can use.  It is recommended to take at least 400mcg of folate while trying to conceive or while undergoing fertility treatment.

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)

Coenzyme Q10 is an antioxidant that can aid with egg quality. Otherwise known as CoQ10, this supplement has proven to increase the amount of eggs retrieved, the quality of eggs and embryos, and the amount of positive pregnancy results for those undergoing IVF. Some researchers say this is due to CoQ10’s ability to regenerate eggs’ mitochondrial function, which can be a major cause of declining egg quality.

Omega 3 fatty acids

The can be a great addition too, as the body cannot make the essential Omega 3 fat, so it must be consumed in your daily diet. Oily fish such as wild salmon, sardines and mackerel are a great source but if you don’t eat oily fish regularly or don’t like it then supplementing is necessary pre- conception and throughout pregnancy. Omega 3 fatty acids help with hormone functioning and in the reduction of inflammation. Many fertility issues are caused by inflammatory conditions and the western diet contains too much omega 6 in comparison to omega 3, so supplementation alongside a good diet is a good idea.

Selenium

Selenium is found in Brazil nuts, mushrooms and eggs. It is an important antioxidant known to play a key role in female fertility health. For women, it helps to prevent free radical damage to the egg, which otherwise would lead to damage and ageing of the DNA in the nucleus of the egg cell.

Zinc

Zinc is an important co factor in many enzyme-controlled reactions in the body. In women it is needed to ensure correct egg formation, regulate hormones and maintain follicular fluid. As zinc is required in cell division it plays an important role in foetal development.

Vitamin D

Also known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’ -has been linked in studies to improving egg quality. As many are deficient in this important vitamin, it can be obtained from egg yolk, Mushrooms, Sardines, Mackerel, Salmon, Milk (and dairy products- butter is a good source), Tuna, Cod and halibut liver oils. It is also advisable to supplement this important vitamin.

Antioxidants

Beta- carotene, vitamin C and E are all important antioxidants that help to protect egg DNA from free radical damage.

Learn more about egg quality:

Can a woman improve the quality of her eggs?

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