Lycopene Supplementation May Boost Sperm Quality

By Marilynn Larkin

October 18, 2019

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Supplementation with lycopene, a dietary compound found in tomatoes, improved sperm quality in a small randomized controlled trial in healthy volunteers.

"The study was prompted by an interest I have had in whether nutritional supplements can improve sperm quality," Dr. Allan Pacey of the University of Sheffield, UK told Reuters Health by email. "There are a lot of such products on the market, sold at great cost to patients, but without much evidence to support their use."

"Over the years I have tried to encourage the manufacturers and suppliers of such products to do proper trials and they have all declined to do so," he noted. "Thus, it was refreshing when... Cambridge Nutraceuticals Ltd was keen to support a study of their formulation of lycopene.

"We decided to do a small trial on healthy men because we knew that some of them would have poor sperm quality - 20% of young men do - and therefore if we could see any changes in this group, it would help us better design (and power) a study on men with fertility problems later down the line," he said.

"Plus," he added, "it would seem unethical to charge straight into a study on vulnerable patients when we had no clue about whether there would be any benefit (or harm) to their sperm by taking this pill. Now...we can properly design a study on subfertile men."

Dr. Pacey and colleagues randomly assigned 60 healthy men (mean age, 23) to 14 mg/d lactolycopene (a more bioavailable form of lycopene) or placebo for 12 weeks. At baseline, there were no significant demographic differences between the groups, including the proportion of smokers, street drug use, alcohol use or choice of underwear. Further, there was no difference in plasma lycopene levels between groups; however, the mean BMI was significantly higher among those randomized to lactolycopene (25.2 vs. 23.5).

As reported online October 8 in the European Journal of Nutrition, compliance with the intervention was good and similar in both treatment arms, with median compliance of 97.6% and 94.3% in the placebo and lactolycopene arms, respectively.

At 12 weeks, the level of plasma lycopene was significantly increased in the men randomized to lycopene supplementation. There was no significant change in the primary endpoint (motile sperm concentration). However, the proportion of fast progressive sperm and sperm with normal morphology improved significantly in the intervention group.

Summing up, the authors state, "Supplementation with 14 mg/d lactolycopene improves sperm motility and morphology in young healthy men."

Dr. Doron Stember, an assistant professor of urology at Mount Sinai in New York City, commented in an email to Reuters Health, "This approach seems promising and adds to a growing body of evidence that certain antioxidants can have a significant benefit on sperm quality."

Like Dr. Pacey, he added, "The next step should be a larger trial that evaluates the impact of lactolycopene on subfertile men. Improvement in rates of live birth is the ultimate goal."

The study was funded in part by Cambridge Nutraceuticals Ltd, which also provided the lactolycopene and placebo treatments at no cost.


Eur J Nutr 2019.