A recent study by the University of Sheffield has provided good news for the issue of male fertility. A compound most commonly found in tomatoes has successfully increased the proportion of healthy shaped sperm and the speed of ‘fast swimming’ sperm by 40%. Although there is still further study to be conducted, this could be an answer to the 40-50% of ‘male factor’ infertility cases. 

The compound at the centre of the study is Lycopene, a hydrocarbon found in a variety of fruits and vegetables, but primarily in tomatoes. However, dietary Lypocene is poorly absorbed by the human body, and so LactoLypocene was used instead in the trial. It is commercially available as a product to improve bioavailability. 

The study 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 leading specialist in human nutrition, also at the University. They conducted the double-blind randomised controlled trial over twelve weeks, with 60 healthy volunteers between the ages of 19 and 30. Sperm and blood samples were collected at the start and end of the trial, and the results compared. 

The results of the comparison were unprecedented. Professor Pacey, a world expert in male reproduction explained that “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.”

Pacey theorises that, because Lypocene is known to be a powerful antioxidant, it could be preventing oxidation of the sperm – a known cause of infertility in males. However, he notes that – although we now know Lypocene affects sperm quality – we do not yet know the mechanics behind it. He hopes that further study will provide more answers. 

Dr Williams is already planning to conduct a further study with her team, which consists of  Madeleine Park, Aisling Robinson, and Sophie Pitt. Their plan moving forward is explained by Williams.

“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 LactoLycopene can increase sperm quality for those men and whether it helps couples conceive and avoid invasive fertility treatments.”

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