A can of boring old tomato soup may be all that’s needed to turn ‘Mr Average Sperm’ into ‘Captain Super Sperm’. It seems that the magical ingredient needed in this transformation is lycopene, which is a brightly coloured carotinoid found in tomatoes.
The University of Portsmouth undertook a study of six, healthy, middle aged men who were all asked to consume a 400g tin of tomato soup everyday for two weeks. During the two week trial, the levels of lycopene found in the men’s semen rose from between 7 to 12%. This was considered a significant rise. When you take into account that higher levels of lycopene are associated with increased fertility, it becomes more interesting.
Another study at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences also concluded that lycopene could boost sperm concentrations in infertile men. The research was based around 30 infertile men aged from 23-45 who had been infertile between 1-20 years, with no apparent explanation. All patients in question had some form of sperm defect, from abnormal sperm structures to impaired sperm mobility and activity. The gentlemen in question were given 2mg of lycopene daily for 3 months and nearly 70% of the patients saw an improvement in the condition of their sperm. So much so, in fact, that six pregnancies resulted from this trial.
What part exactly lycopene plays in fertility, remains a mystery. It is no secret that it is a powerful anti oxidant and it can help rid the body of nasty free radicals, which may interfere with men’s fertility. Lycopene is 1 of 650 carotinoids which is found in high concentration in the male testes.
Studies have already shown that lycopene is a valuable aid in warding off heart disease and numerous types of cancer, such as prostate, cervical, breast and lung.
For those of you that think fresh is best, think again. While fresh tomatoes have many benefits to health, one fresh tomato contains only 3.7mg of lycopene. One cup of tomato soup, on the other hand, has approximately 25mg of lycopene and 100mg of tomato paste can contain up to 150mg. It is also, apparently, more digestible in its processed form.
Good, fresh sources of lycopene include pink grapefruit, apricots, papaya, watermelon and guava. The tomato, however, outperforms them all. You can also find lycopene in ketchup, tomato puree, pizza sauce, and tomato juice.
When you consider that millions of men all over the world have a low sperm count, this is good news indeed. IVF treatment in the US has an average price-tag of $12,000 and there is no guarantee of success. While it is true that a healthier lifestyle will increase your chances of conceiving, a can of tomato soup a day wouldn’t be a bad bet either.
Sources: Daily Telegraph, Bowl of tomato soup a day 'boosts fertility' 28 July 2007 and www.whfoods.com ‘Lycopene fights infertility’