From an article by Emma Innes
The key nutrient that gives tomatoes their bright red colour could boost fertility in men, according to a study. The research shows that lycopene could increase sperm count by up to 70 per cent. The discovery will bring new hope to Britain's one in six childless couples.
Now a leading support group for infertile people is embarking on a year-long survey to see if giving a daily high-lycopene supplement will lead to more pregnancies.
Karen Veness, a spokeswoman for Britain's Infertility Network, said: 'We are really positive about these findings.
'They fit in with message we are trying to get out there, and we're very keen to do an observational study to see if we can help men.
'There's an assumption that infertility is a female issue because women are the ones who have the babies, but half the time it is down to problems with sperm function or quality.'
The report, which was published by the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, reviewed 12 studies by different groups around the world.
All of them showed that lycopene improved sperm count and swimming speed, and reduced the number of abnormal sperm.
Lycopene can improve sperm swimming speed as well as reducing the number of abnormal sperm
Ashok Agarwal, director of the Cleveland Clinic's Center for Reproductive Medicine, who led the study, said it was part of a general pattern showing lycopene benefited men's reproductive organs.
Other studies have shown the nutrient reduces diseases of the prostate, the gland which makes sperm, and may slow down or even halt the progress of prostate cancer.
His team has already begun a trial giving lycopene supplements to men with unexplained infertility.
They expect to announce the results next year.
He said: 'There is a need for more large trials to analyse the effects of lycopene on male infertility, and the studies must establish which patient groups would derive the greatest benefit from the therapy - for example, we would need to compare lycopene supplementation in infertile men with low versus normal, baseline sperm concentration.'
The findings have been welcomed by Britain's infertility experts.
Simon Fishel, a co-founder of the world's first IVF clinic at Bourn Hall in Cambridgeshire, said work in Britain has also shown lycopene reduces damage to sperm.
"In some cases it leads to a lowering of the rate of damaged sperm and in other cases you see an improvement in sperm movement.""
He said: 'In some cases it leads to a lowering of the rate of damaged sperm and in other cases you see an improvement in sperm movement. The big difficulty is proving the next stage which is higher rates of pregnancy. You would need a very big study of very similar men.'