Lycopene: Male fertility could be improved by nutrient found in tomato puree

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Eating tomato puree could be beneficial in improving male fertility, a new study has suggested.

The nutrient Lycopene, found in tomatoes, has been found to help boost sperm quality, contributing to improvements in their shape, size and swimming capabilities.

Better quality sperm

A team of researchers from the University of Sheffield recruited 60 healthy males, aged between 19 and 30, to take part in a 12 week trial.

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Lycopene, found in tomatoes, has been found to help boost sperm qualityLycopene, found in tomatoes, has been found to help boost sperm quality
Lycopene, found in tomatoes, has been found to help boost sperm quality | Other 3rd Party

Half of the volunteers took a 14mg supplement of LactoLycopene (the equivalent of two tablespoons of concentrated tomato puree) per day, while the other half were given placebo pills.

The sperm of the volunteers was tested at the start of the trial, at six weeks and at the end of the study to monitor the effects.

While there was no difference in sperm concentration, the proportion of healthy-shaped sperm and motility was almost 40 per cent higher in those taking lycopene.

Encouraging results

Cutting down on alcohol can help improve your chances of conceptionCutting down on alcohol can help improve your chances of conception
Cutting down on alcohol can help improve your chances of conception | Other 3rd Party

The Sheffield team said they opted to use a supplement for the study, as lycopene in food can be harder for the body to absorb. This method also meant they could be confident that each male received the same amount of the nutrient every day.

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To get the equivalent dose of lycopene, the volunteers would have needed to consume 2kg of cooked tomatoes per day.

As well as increased sperm quality, lycopene has also been linked to other health benefits, including reducing the risk of heart disease and some cancers.

The results from study mark a positive step in improving male fertility, as Dr Liz Williams, who led the research, told the BBC, "This was a small study and we 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 lycopene can increase sperm quality for those men, and whether it helps couples conceive and avoid invasive fertility treatments."

Improving fertility

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Male infertility affects up to half of couples who cannot conceive, but there are a number of lifestyle changes men can make if they are experiencing fertility problems.

The NHS advises cutting down on alcohol, recommending no more than 14 units per week, and giving up smoking. Eating a healthy, balanced diet and maintaining a healthy weight is also essential for keeping sperm in good condition.

At least five portions of fruit and vegetables should be consumed each day, as well as carbohydrates, such as wholemeal bread and pasta, and lean meat, fish and pulses for protein.

The NHS also recommends wearing loose fitting underwear while trying to conceive and to try and keep stress levels low, as this can limit sperm production.