Sperm quality can be improved with a simple diet supplement containing a compound found in cooked tomatoes, according to new research by the University of Sheffield, in England. The discovery could transform the outlook for men with fertility problems and lead to better ways to reduce the damaging impact of modern living on reproductive health, the researchers claim. Of all infertility cases, approximately 40 to 50 percent are due to “male factor” infertility.
The first ever double-blind randomized controlled trial to assess the impact of giving men a dietary compound called LactoLycopene, was led by Allan Pacey, Professor of Andrology Reproduction and Head of the University of Sheffield’s Department of Oncology and Metabolism, and Dr. Liz Williams, a specialist in Human Nutrition at the University of Sheffield. The team discovered it is possible to increase the proportion of healthy shaped sperm (sperm morphology) and boost “fast swimming” sperm by around 40 percent.
Lycopene can be found in some fruits and vegetables, but the main source in the diet is from tomatoes. Lycopene is a pigment that gives tomatoes their red color, but dietary Lycopene is poorly absorbed by the human body, so the compound used for the trial was a commercially available formulation, called LactoLycopene, designed to improve bioavailability.
The 12-week trial involved 60 healthy volunteers aged 19 to 30. Half took LactoLycopene supplements and the other half took identical placebo (dummy pills) every day for 12 weeks.
“We didn’t really expect that at the end of the study there would be any difference in the sperm from men who took the tablet versus those who took the placebo. When we decoded the results, I nearly fell off my chair,” said Professor Pacey, an expert in male reproduction. “The improvement in morphology — the size and shape of the sperm, was dramatic.”
The work so far has not investigated the mechanism for Lycopene’s beneficial action but it is a known powerful antioxidant, so is potentially inhibiting the damage caused by oxidation of sperm, which is a known cause of male fertility problems.