Whilst it’s true that all women will see a natural decline in egg quality and quantity as they age, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do to improve your chances of a positive egg freezing outcome. This is because as the eggs mature in the ovaries, there’s a 90-day window where external factors (like your diet!) can influence their health.
If you’re new to the idea of egg freezing, we’ve put together a useful egg freezing guide that you can check out here. Up to date on what to expect during an egg freezing cycle? Read on to discover the relationship between diet and egg health, and give yourself the knowledge you need to boost your chances of egg freezing success!
What Do We Mean By ‘Egg Health’?
When we talk about the health of an egg, what we really mean is its genetic quality. A genetically normal egg is more likely to create a genetically normal embryo, which in turn is more likely to result in a successful pregnancy. As women age, the proportion of good quality eggs in their ovaries decreases, meaning older women are less likely to achieve a healthy pregnancy than younger women.
In the ovaries, eggs spend most of their life in an immature state. During ovulation, an egg goes through a phase of cell division where genetic errors can occur. Unfortunately, once an egg’s DNA has been damaged, there’s no way to reverse this process and make it healthy. However, it is during this time that your diet can influence your eggs and increase the chance of them being genetically normal.
Studies show that women who have good levels of vitamin D are more likely to have a baby following fertility treatment than women who are deficient in this nutrient (1). Additionally, women who don’t have enough vitamin D during pregnancy are more likely to suffer from complications like preeclampsia and gestational diabetes (1).
Vitamin D can be found in lots of food sources like egg yolks, oily fish, and mushrooms. Amazingly, our bodies can also make vitamin D from sunshine (that’s why it’s called the sunshine hormone!) so getting out in the sun for 20 minutes a day can also ensure you have adequate levels.
It may shock you to learn that over 40% of Americans are thought to be deficient in vitamin D (2), so it’s possible you could be low in this nutrient. However, as vitamin D is a fat soluble nutrient, our bodies hold on to excess amounts which can become toxic if levels get too high. Therefore, before introducing any supplements or altering your diet to include more vitamin D-rich foods, you should speak with a Registered Dietitian to make sure you’re getting the right amount for your needs.
Having enough zinc in your diet is essential for egg health! This mineral has been shown to be a key player in regulating egg cell division, fertilization, and embryo development (3). In fact, as shown in the graph below, depriving mice of zinc for just 5 days caused drastic decreases in their eggs’ ability to be fertilized (3).
Source: Tian and Diaz (2013) (3)
If you decide to use your frozen eggs in the future and have a partner that produces sperm, it’s also important that they have enough zinc in their diet. That’s because this mineral has been shown to boost sperm counts and improve the sperm’s ability to swim (4).
All of the factors discussed above are key to achieving a successful pregnancy, so it’s crucial to make sure that you’re getting enough zinc in your diet before freezing your eggs. Zinc can be found in a bunch of foods like chickpeas, whole grains, nuts, oysters and beef.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Ensuring you have enough omega-3 in your diet before egg freezing is a must. Research suggests that omega-3 can increase the reproductive lifespan of eggs, and improve egg quality (especially if you’re of ‘advanced maternal age’) (5).
The best sources of omega-3s for promoting egg health are oily fish like mackerel, salmon and sardines as they contain the EPA and DHA versions of this fatty acid. Whilst plant-based sources of omega-3 (like walnuts and chia seeds) are super healthy, they contain the ALA version of the fatty acid, which must be converted to EPA and DHA by the body to become useful for egg health. Unfortunately, the conversion rate is less than 10%. So, if you can eat animal-based sources of omega-3, that’s the best way to get the egg health boosting effects. If not, don’t worry, simply speak with a Registered Dietitian to see what alternatives may be available for you.
Coenzyme Q-10 (CoQ-10)
CoQ-10 is a vitamin-like substance that acts as a powerful antioxidant in the body. Research suggests that having enough CoQ-10 in your diet can help protect your eggs from DNA damage after ovulation and preserve their genetic health (6). Taking CoQ-10 supplements may also improve the response to ovarian stimulation during fertility treatment, increase the number of high quality eggs retrieved at egg collection, and boost fertilization rates (as shown in the graph below) (7). These factors are all really important when thinking about freezing your eggs!
CoQ-10 can be found in foods like beef, organ meat, soybeans, chicken, oranges, and oily fish. You can also find this nutrient in a supplement form, but speak to a Registered Dietitian first to make sure you’re getting the right dose.
Source: Xu et al (2018) (7)
Healthy Weight Range
Whilst what you put into your body can have amazing effects on your egg health, research suggests that ensuring you’re in a healthy weight range is important too. Being overweight or underweight can have negative implications for your fertility, reduce your chances of success with assisted reproduction, and impair the eggs’ ability to mature properly (8, 9).
It can be tough to get into a healthy weight range so it’s important to work closely with a Registered Dietitian to ensure you’re doing it in the safest and most effective way possible.
The Bottom Line
What you eat in the run up to freezing your eggs can have profound effects on their genetic quality and overall health. The types and doses of nutrients and supplements you need will be individual to you and based on your lifestyle, current diet, and medical background. For example, women who carry extra weight, have diabetes, smoke, have Coeliac disease or a history of neural tube defects need higher amounts of folic acid in their diet, whilst women with some thyroid conditions need to avoid additional iodine.
We would highly recommend that all women speak with a Registered Dietitian before freezing their eggs. During a personalized consultation, you will be able to discuss your goals and create a unique diet plan that can improve your chances of success!
How Can Holness Nutrition Help Me?
Nicole Holness is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who is experienced in helping women with their fertility, pregnancy, and overall wellness. If you are thinking about freezing your eggs, please get in touch! We are here to create a unique nutrition and diet plan for you that will optimize your egg freezing experience and let you nourish and flourish for life.
(1) Chu, J. et al (2018) ‘Vitamin D and assisted reproductive treatment outcome: a systematic review and meta-analysis’, Human Reproduction, 33 (1), pp. 65-80.
(2) Forrest, K.Y., and Stuhldreher, W. L. (2011) ‘Prevalence and correlates of vitamin D deficiency in US adults’, Nutrition Research, 31 (1), pp. 48-54.
(3) Tian, X., and Diaz, F. J. (2013) ‘Acute dietary zinc deficiency before conception compromises oocyte epigenetic programming and disrupts embryonic development’, Developmental biology, 376 (1), pp. 51-61.
(4) Fallah, A., Mohammad-Hasani, A., & Colagar, A. H. (2018) ‘Zinc is an Essential Element for Male Fertility: A Review of Zn Roles in Men’s Health, Germination, Sperm Quality, and Fertilization’, Journal of reproduction & infertility, 19 (2), pp. 69-81.
(5) Nehra, D. et al (2012) ‘Prolonging the female reproductive lifespan and improving egg quality with dietary omega-3 fatty acids’, Aging Cell, 11 (6), pp. 1046-1054.
(6) Zhang,M. et al (2019) ‘Coenzyme Q10 ameliorates the quality of postovulatory aged oocytes by suppressing DNA damage and apoptosis’, Free Radical Biology and Medicine Free, 143 (1), pp. 84-94.
(7) Xu, Y. et al (2018) ‘Pretreatment with coenzyme Q10 improves ovarian response and embryo quality in low-prognosis young women with decreased ovarian reserve: a randomized controlled trial’ Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology, 16 (1), pp. 29.
(8) Purcell, S. H., and Moley, K. H. (2011) ‘The impact of obesity on egg quality’, Journal of assisted reproduction and genetics, 28 (6), pp. 517-524.
(9) Tang, S., et al. (2021) ‘Adverse effects of pre-pregnancy maternal underweight on pregnancy and perinatal outcomes in a freeze-all policy’ BMC Pregnancy Childbirth, 21 (1), article 32.