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Abstract

Volume 16, Issue 3 (May 2014) 16, 420–425; 10.4103/1008-682X.126384

Lycopene and male infertility

Damayanthi Durairajanayagam1,2, Ashok Agarwal1, Chloe Ong1, Pallavi Prashast1

1Center for Reproductive Medicine, Glickman Urological and Kidney Institute, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, Ohio, USA; 2Faculty of Medicine, MARA University of Technology, Sungai Buloh, Selangor, Malaysia.

Correspondence: Dr. A Agarwal (agarwaa@ccf.org)

Received: 12 September 2013; Revised: 04 November 2013; Accepted: 02 January 2014

Abstract

Excessive amounts of reactive oxygen species (ROS) cause a state of oxidative stress, which result in sperm membrane lipid peroxidation, DNA damage and apoptosis, leading to decreased sperm viability and motility. Elevated levels of ROS are a major cause of idiopathic male factor infertility, which is an increasingly common problem today. Lycopene, the most potent singlet oxygen quencher of all carotenoids, is a possible treatment option for male infertility because of its antioxidant properties. By reacting with and neutralizing free radicals, lycopene could reduce the incidence of oxidative stress and thus, lessen the damage that would otherwise be inflicted on spermatozoa. It is postulated that lycopene may have other beneficial effects via nonoxidative mechanisms in the testis, such as gap junction communication, modulation of gene expression, regulation of the cell cycle and immunoenhancement. Various lycopene supplementation studies conducted on both humans and animals have shown promising results in alleviating male infertility—lipid peroxidation and DNA damage were decreased, while sperm count and viability, and general immunity were increased. Improvement of these parameters indicates a reduction in oxidative stress, and thus the spermatozoa is less vulnerable to oxidative damage, which increases the chances of a normal sperm fertilizing the egg. Human trials have reported improvement in sperm parameters and pregnancy rates with supplementation of 4–8 mg of lycopene daily for 3–12 months. However, further detailed and extensive research is still required to determine the dosage and the usefulness of lycopene as a treatment for male infertility.

Keywords: antioxidants; lycopene; male infertility; oxidative stress; reactive oxygen species; sperm parameters

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