The rise of male infertility
In 2015 Agarwal and collages published a review of global male fertility trends. The study was based on meta-analyses, systematic reviews, and population-based studies. Researchers estimate that across the world 30 million men are infertile, with Eastern Europe and Africa reporting the highest rates1. Male infertility is continuing to rise and scientists are investigating many interventions to turn the tide and improve reproductive vigor.
Research into tomatoes and male fertility
The UK is about to launch a new study looking at tomatoes and male fertility. These fruits are enriched with a compound called lycopene. A bright red carotene, this compound can also be found in other fruits and vegetables such as watermelon, papaya and carrots.
During this new twelve week trial, scientists based at the University of Sheffield will be attempting to determine if elevating lycopene levels can improve the quality of sperm. The researchers are particularly interested to see if this compound will decrease DNA damage to developing sperm. Also of interest is determining if lycopene supplementation will enhance mature sperm count.
What we know about lycopene
This compound is not an essential nutrient for humans. However, it is widely consumed due to its high concentration within tomatoes. The body actually produces its own lycopene. This pigment is concentrated in the liver, blood, lungs, prostate, adrenal glands, colon, skin and prostate.
Lycopene has attracted the attention of research scientists due to its antioxidant effects. There have been many studies investigating the benefits of this compound in the prevention and therapy of certain cancers. Prostate cancer in particular may respond to lycopene treatment2, 3.
There is also some evidence that lung, stomach, colon, breast, cervix, and pancreas cancers may also benefit from this compound4. Other studies have indicated the lycopene may help to minimise low density lipoprotein (LDL) oxidation and subsequently reduce the risk of atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease5, 6, 7.
However, more research and human-based clinical trials are necessary to back the findings of epidemiological studies.
Lycopene antioxidant activity
This pigment has been shown to have high levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) scavenging activity8. This enables lycopene to stop lipid peroxidation and DNA damage.
Furthermore, this compound activates the antioxidant response element transcription system. This processes triggers the release of enzymes that make up the cellular antioxidant defense systems to further boost immune function.
Studies show that the combination of lycopene, beta-carotene, vitamin E, and lutein provides synergistic antioxidant activity9. This combination elevates immune function with each compound more effective than if acting alone. Lycopene and vitamin E are particularly effective together.
Given that tomatoes contain high concentrations of these nutrients it’s possible that this synergy of compounds is responsible for the observed findings in epidemiological studies. Lycopene itself may not sufficient to explain the positive health benefits associated with tomato consumption. This is another reason why more research is necessary.
Antioxidants and sperm health
Antioxidants have been proven to be very important for male fertility. They help to protect developing sperm from free radical damage and possible DNA damage. Numerous studies have found that antioxidants can elevate sperm count, motility and concentration.
Read more about the benefits of antioxidants for healthy sperm here.
Lycopene and male fertility
As lycopene is a known antioxidant with powerful free radical scavenging ability it stands to reason that this compound can help to enhance sperm health. However, how effective it is still needs to be determined.
Is lycopene supplementation alone enough to boost sperm quality? How important are tomatoes for male fertility? These are just couple of the questions that this new study investigating tomatoes, lycopene and male fertility will hopefully help to answer. In the meantime, men should continue to include tomatoes in their diet and the whole body can benefit from their high antioxidant content.
Improve your fertility with micronutrients
Several micronutrients such as vitamins, vitaminoids, amino acids and trace elements have proven themselves effective in improving sperm quantity, mobility and shape. This directly translates into better overall sperm quality and therefore a higher chance of pregnancy.
- relatively inexpensive
- effective after three to six months
- able to increase sperm motility by up to 23%, ejaculate volume by up to 33% and sperm count by up to 215%10
- without side effects
For those reasons, male fertility food supplements are most definitely recommended as the first step in the treatment of oligospermia and asthenospermia.
Also men who have not yet taken a semen analysis test will benefit from supplementing micronutrients to ensure they are able to deliver high-quality semen.
There are no contraindications or side effects to this form of natural ‘sperm boosting’.
An excellent and detailed overview of many studies can be found in Steven Sinclair’s Male Infertility: Nutritional and Environmental Considerations.
A considerable range of male fertility supplements available on the UK market.
However, the products differ widely in price and composition. Menfertility.org has compared 10 of them in terms of value for money and the nutrients they provide.
The most effective male fertility nutrients
A multitude of studies has shown that highly dosed nutrients have potentially significant impact on overall sperm quality.
Vitamin D has been shown to improve sperm count, motility and morphology15.
Vitamin B9, better known as folic acid has been shown to increase count, motility and morphology16.
Zinc improves the immune system and significantly improves sperm count in combination with folic acid17.
Sperm cells take 11 weeks to mature in the testicles. Only then they are ready for ejaculation.
If you adjust your diet today it will thus take three months for the better sperm to be ready for fertilisation.
You must therefore keep the diet or supplement on an ongoing basis – ideally until your partner is pregnant or you decide for a different treatment.
All of the male fertility supplements in our great test include several of these nutrients at once, albeit at a lower dose. This is a cost-effective and convenient way making this type of fertility therapy affordable and requiring taking only one all-in-one supplement instead of many.
To find out more about the effects of the individual nutrients and how the various supplements compare, please read menfertility.org’s male fertility supplement review.
The top male fertility supplements
- Agarwal A, Mulgund A, Hamada A, Chyatte MR. A unique view on male infertility around the globe. Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology. 2015. 13:37 ↩
- Chen J, Song Y, Zhang L. Lycopene/tomato consumption and the risk of prostate cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies. Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology. 2013. 59(3): 213-23 ↩
- Zu K, Mucci L, Rosner BA, Clinton SK, Loda M, Stampfer MJ, Giovannucci E. Dietary lycopene, angiogenesis, and prostate cancer: a prospective study in the prostate-specific antigen era. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 2014. 106(2) ↩
- Giovannucci E. Tomatoes, tomato-based products, lycopene, and cancer: review of the epidemiologic literature. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 1999. 91(4): 317-31 ↩
- Agarwal S, Rao AV. Tomato lycopene and low density lipoprotein oxidation: a human dietary intervention study. Lipids. 1998. 33(10): 981-4 ↩
- Rissanen T, Voutilainen S, Nyyssönen K, Salonen JT. Lycopene, atherosclerosis, and coronary heart disease. Experimental Biology and Medicine. 2002. 227(10): 900-7 ↩
- Rissanen TH, Voutilainen S, Nyyssönen K, Salonen R, Kaplan GA, Salonen JT. Serum lycopene concentrations and carotid atherosclerosis: the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2003. 77(1): 133-8 ↩
- Kelkel M, Schumacher M, Dicato M, Diederich M. Antioxidant and anti-proliferative properties of lycopene. Free Radical Research. 2011. 45(8): 925-40 ↩
- Shi J, Kakuda Y, Yeung D. Antioxidative properties of lycopene and other carotenoids from tomatoes: synergistic effects. Biofactors. 2004. 21(1-4): 203-10 ↩
- Imhof M, Lackner J, Lipovac M, Chedraui P, Riedl C. Improvement of sperm quality after micronutrient supplementation. e-SPEN Journal. 2012. 7(1): e50-e53 ↩
- Sinclair S. Male infertility: nutritional and environmental considerations. Alternative Medicine Review. 2000. 5(1): 28-38 ↩
- Scibona M, Meschini P, Capparelli S, Pecori C, Rossi P, Menchini Fabris GF. L-arginine and male infertility. Italian Journal of Urology and Nephrology. 1994. 46(4): 251-3 ↩
- Lenzi A, Lombardo F, Sgrò P, Salacone P, Caponecchia L, Dondero F, Gandini L. Use of carnitine therapy in selected cases of male factor infertility: a double-blind crossover trial. Fertility and Sterility. 2003. 79(2): 292-300 ↩
- Costa M, Canale D, Filicori M, D’lddio S, Lenzi A. L-carnitine in idiopathic asthenozoospermia: a multicenter study. Italian Study Group on Carnitine and Male Infertility. Andrologia. 1994. 26(3): 155-9 ↩
- Blomberg Jensen M, Bjerrum PJ, Jessen TE, Nielsen JE, Joensen UN, Olesen IA, Petersen JH, Juul A, Dissing S, Jørgensen N. Vitamin D is positively associated with sperm motility and increases intracellular calcium in human spermatozoa. Human Reproduction. 2011. 26(6): 1307-17 ↩
- Safarinejad MR, Shafiei N, Safarinejad S. Relationship between genetic polymorphisms of methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (C677T, A1298C, and G1793A) as risk factors for idiopathic male infertility. Reproductive Sciences. 2011. 18(3): 304-15 ↩
- Wong WY, Merkus HM, Thomas CM, Menkveld R, Zielhuis GA, Steegers-Theunissen RP. Effects of folic acid and zinc sulfate on male factor subfertility: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Fertility and Sterility. 2002. 77(3): 491-8 ↩
- Moslemi MK, Tavanbakhsh S. Selenium-vitamin E supplementation in infertile men: effects on semen parameters and pregnancy rate. International Journal of General Medicine. 2011. 4:99-104 ↩
- Keskes-Ammar L, Feki-Chakroun N, Rebai T, Sahnoun Z, Ghozzi H, Hammami S, Zghal K, Fki H, Damak J, Bahloul A. Sperm oxidative stress and the effect of an oral vitamin E and selenium supplement on semen quality in infertile men. Archives of Andrology. 2003. 49(2): 83-94 ↩
- Vézina D, Mauffette F, Roberts KD, Bleau G. Selenium-vitamin E supplementation in infertile men. Effects on semen parameters and micronutrient levels and distribution. Biological Trace Element Research. 1996. 53(1-3): 65-83 ↩