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Can Tomato Puree Improve Male Fertility?

Tomatoes have had a good year in my field. This tasty little
fruit-vegetable (yes, it’s both) has always been a workhorse dietary
antioxidant. And when cooked into a sauce or paste, the all-star phytonutrients
in tomatoes, including lycopene and Vitamins A and C, become even more

But could eating tomatoes also improve reproductive health?

Try Sundried Tomatoes

Let’s focus on the carotenoid antioxidant that gives
tomatoes their color: lycopene. Consistently voted a top-10 antioxidant in the
nutrition world, lycopene has been lauded for its ability to slow or prevent
the growth of prostate cancer and extend the lives of those with metabolic
syndrome and heart disease. And in our research in the development of an ideal
organic male prenatal
, lycopene consistently performed at the varsity level and easily
earned its way onto the roster.

So, it did not surprise me at all when lycopene was recently shown to improve semen quality among healthy
(not infertile!) men. This was in the rigorous setting of the grand poobah of
all study designs: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study. Among
healthy men given pureed lycopene and compared to others given placebo for 12
weeks, sperm motility improved, and sperm morphology or shape improved. Both of
these semen analysis measures are considered critical for male fertility.

A Better Sperm

These study findings jibe with my medical beliefs. After
years in the field, I’ve come to believe that a healthy antioxidant diet or
supplement improves male fertility not by increasing production and improving
sperm numbers but by enhancing sperm “quality.”

One measure of quality is motility, a characteristic of
sperm that is critical for it to travel from the cervix, where it lands, to the
egg some 8 inches — virtually an ocean — away. Any help sperm can get with this
long, upstream swim would seem to confer a selective fertility advantage. And,
at least in a dish, it’s pretty clear that the best-looking sperm do the best
job of fertilizing eggs. So, lycopene may help men produce more reproductively
“fit” sperm, which is certainly a desirable endpoint in a world in which
fertility appears to be decreasing by the day.

Hats off to lycopene, my personal choice for antioxidant of
the year.

This article first appeared on Dr. Turek’s blog.

Photo by PhotoMIX Ltd. from Pexels

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