Can tomatoes help improve male fertility?

Representational image

New Delhi (NVI): A compound found in tomatoes could help tackle fertility problems in men, scientists claim. Sperm quality is becoming a major problem these days in men all over the world. Scientists are constantly studying this and most studies have shown that the sperm quality of men has dropped significantly in the last 20 years.

A new study by the team from the University of Sheffield of a small cohort of men has found that the pigment which gives the fruit its red colour, known as lycopene, could boost sperm quality, specifically around size and swimming capabilities.

Lycopene, like vitamin E and zinc which have been the focus of previous research, is an antioxidant which means it prevents oxidation in cells, and therefore damage.

It has been linked to other health benefits, including reducing the risk of heart disease and some cancers.

The researchers say their findings could help reduce the need for invasive fertility treatments in the future as more than 40 per cent of all infertility cases are due to abnormal sperm production or function.

For the study, 60 healthy volunteers were recruited aged between 19 and 30.

During the 12-week trial, half of the participants took 14mg of LactoLycopene – a pill created by supplement manufacturer Cambridge Nutraceuticals Ltd that contains the tomato pigment – while the other half took placebos.

The team analysed the sperm samples collected at the beginning and end of the trial.

The results, published in the European Journal of Nutrition, showed that participants taking LactoLycopene had almost 40 per cent more fast-swimming sperm than when they began the trial, along with improvements to size and shape.

Professor Allan Pacey, head of the University of Sheffield’s department of oncology and metabolism and lead author, said, “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. The improvement in morphology – the size and shape of the sperm – was dramatic,” Allan said.

Pacey added that he believes the anti-oxidant properties of lycopene could prevent sperm from becoming damaged.

The team says that the next stage is to repeat the exercise in men with fertility issues to see if the supplement can increase sperm quality and whether or not it can help couples conceive without invasive fertility treatments.