In a new study, researchers found sperm quality can be improved with a simple diet supplement containing a compound found in cooked tomatoes.
The discovery could benefit men with fertility problems and lead to better ways to reduce the damaging impact of modern living on reproductive health.
The research was conducted by a team from the University of Sheffield.
Of all infertility cases, approximately 40 to 50 percent are due to “male factor” infertility.
In the study, the team examined the impact of giving men a dietary compound called LactoLycopene on their sperm quality.
They 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 by FutureYou Cambridge to improve bioavailability.
The study involved 60 healthy volunteers aged 19 to 30.
Half took LactoLycopene supplements and the other half took an identical placebo (dummy pills) every day for 12 weeks.
Sperm and blood samples were collected at the beginning and end of the trial.
The researchers found the supplement could strongly improve the size and shape of the sperm.
This us a small study, and scientists do need to repeat the work in bigger trials, but the results are very encouraging.
The next step is to repeat the exercise in men with fertility problems and see if LactoLycopene can increase sperm quality for those men and whether it helps couples conceive and avoid invasive fertility treatments.
One author of the study is Allan Pacey, Professor of Andrology Reproduction.
The study is published in the European Journal of Nutrition.
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