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Tomatoes Might Boost Male Fertility

A chemical found in tomatoes could help boost male fertility, according to a report published by the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.

Lycopene, an antioxidant compound that gives tomatoes their color, could increase sperm count by 70 percent, the report's authors say.

"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," says Karen Veness, spokeswoman for Britain's Infertility Network.

The researchers studied 12 different groups of people around the world. They found that lycopene not only improves sperm quality and fertility, but also increases the swimming speed of sperm and decreases the number of abnormal sperm.

Ashok Agarwal, lead author of the study and director of the Cleveland Clinic's Center for Reproductive Medicine, says he and his team have begun a trial in which they are giving lycopene supplements to men with unexplained infertility. Results of the study are expected in 2015.

"There is a need for more large trials to analyze the effects of lycopene on male infertility, and the studies must establish which patient groups would derive the greatest benefit from the therapy," he says.

Other studies have found that people who have diets rich in tomatoes appear to have a lower risk of certain types of cancers, such as prostate, lung and stomach. Lycopene may also reduce the risk of heart disease, help lower cholesterol, and protect enzymes, DNA and cellular fats.

"We are really positive about these findings," Veness says. "They fit in with the 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."

While tomatoes are the most concentrated food source of lycopene, apricots, watermelon, papaya, pink grapefruit and guava are also signifant sources. Guys needing a fertility boost may want to check out our Grilled Flank Steak with Tomatoes recipe or Jamie Oliver's Best Tomato Sauce Ever.