Experts often advise obese women struggling to become pregnant to lose weight. However, a new study has found no fertility benefits from losing weight, according to Science Daily.

Researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine’s Center for Research in Reproduction studied nearly 380 women with obesity and unexplained infertility. They found that intensive lifestyle changes that help lose weight led to no better chances of pregnancy and healthy births.

Author Dr. Daniel Haisenleder said, “We have known for decades that obese women often have difficulty getting pregnant. For this reason, many physicians advise weight loss prior to conception. However, there are few studies that have addressed the issue comparing a healthy lifestyle – i.e., exercise vs. exercise plus weight loss.”

The researchers divided participants into two groups. In one group, women followed a diet using meal replacements, medications, and increased physical activity, while the other group increased their physical activity without trying to lose weight.

After completing the programs, both groups received three rounds of standard infertility treatments.

In the weight-loss group, women ended up losing 7% of their body weight, while those in the exercise-only group typically maintained their weights. However, there were no significant differences between the two groups in terms of the frequency of healthy births.

In the weight-loss group, 23 of the 188 women ended up giving birth. In the exercise-only group, 29 of the 191 women gave birth.

However, the intensive weight-loss or dieting program did offer health benefits for the women. Apart from shedding pounds, their risk of metabolic syndrome decreased. A metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions that can increase the risk for chronic health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

Dr. Haisenleder and his team conclude that the intense weight-loss program did not make women more fertile or improve birth outcomes.

He said, “Weight loss improved metabolic health in these subjects. Unfortunately, the changes seen did not improve fertility. Infertility within this population remains an important health issue, and will require further studies to address the problem in the future.”