Fatty Acids & Obesity

A recent study published in Fertility and Sterility has once again revealed the importance of maintaining a healthy diet and healthy weight during your fertility journey.

We’ve posted before about the importance of omega-3 fatty acids and the important role they play in sperm and egg quality, even helping relieve some of the symptoms of endometriosis, however this new study has shown the impact an unhealthy weight can have on fatty acid composition.

There are good and bad fatty acids, some we consume with fast food and sugary drinks, and there are the fatty acids that are vital for energy in humans that assist with important structural components of cells, heart health, and brain function and development.

This study was the first to look at fatty acid composition in human oocytes and the impact it may have on oocyte quality. When looking at weight and fatty acid composition, the women who had a normal body mass index (BMI) had higher levels of saturated fatty acids and lower levels of mono-saturated fatty acids. Women who were obese or had a higher BMI tended to have lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids, therefore revealing they had a very different fatty acid composition to the women with a normal BMI.

The researchers analysed the fatty acid concentrations in the follicular fluid surrounding the growing oocyte and discovered that women who were obese had lower levels of saturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids. Given that omega-3 is essential for embryo development at a cell signalling level, it could contribute to the reason behind poor IVF outcomes in many obese women.

Another factor to consider is the impact fatty acids can have during oocyte and embryo cryopreservation, high lipid concentrations contributing to cryodamage. Vitrification is a highly sophisticated and successful method of cryopreservation in the IVF industry. However, it is still unknown whether fatty acid composition can have an impact on the freezing and warming process. Further research must be made regarding this; however, this initial study has revealed a reasonable explanation for why many women with high BMIs may see adverse outcomes when undergoing IVF treatment.