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Can the antioxidant lycopene improve sperm quality?

In a nutshell

This study looked at whether an antioxidant called lycopene can improve sperm quality in men with infertility. This study found that lycopene supplements improved sperm count and increased antioxidant levels in these patients.

Some background

Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are molecules that form in the body during regular metabolism. These molecules can damage DNA (genetic material) inside sperm and cause them to move abnormally. Smoking, alcohol, fried foods, and pesticides can increase the amounts of ROS inside cells.

Men with infertility have lower amounts of antioxidants compared to men without infertility. Antioxidants are molecules that can lower the levels of ROS. Lycopene is an antioxidant found in tomatoes, grapefruit, papaya, and other fruits and vegetables. It is unclear if lycopene supplements may benefit men with infertility.

Methods & findings

This study included 44 male patients with infertility for at least 5 years. Patients had low sperm count and quality. 17 patients were given lycopene supplements, and 19 patients received a placebo (a substance with no active effect). Patients were followed for 12 weeks.

After taking supplements, patients in the lycopene group had much higher antioxidant levels (3.24 micromoles/L) compared to the placebo group (2.44 micromoles/L). However, the levels of different ROS molecules were not different between the two groups.

The lycopene group had a significantly higher total sperm count than the placebo group (102.45 million sperm vs. 53.42 million sperm). There were no significant differences in sperm movement or appearance between the two groups.

Methods & findings
The bottom line

This study found that lycopene supplements improved sperm count and increased antioxidant levels in men with infertility.

The fine print

This study had a very small number of patients and a short follow-up time. More studies are needed to confirm these results.

What’s next?

Talk to your doctor or nutritionist about how you can incorporate antioxidants into your diet.

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Published By: Phytotherapy research : PTR
Date: Nov 11, 2020
Original Title: The effects of lycopene supplement on the spermatogram and seminal oxidative stress in infertile men: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial.

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