New research suggests an unlikely aid to male impotence: tomato sauce. The secret to this sauce, lycopene, is an antioxidant that prevents damage in cells, including sperm cells.

Lycopene, which is a pigment that naturally occurs in tomatoes, has already been shown to provide several health benefits, plus it can even be used to produce electricity.

The findings are the result of a study conducted by researchers from Britain’s University of Sheffield, involving 60 male test subjects aged 19 to 30 years old. Every day for 12 weeks, half of the men took a lycopene-based dietary supplement known as LactoLycopene.

Professor Allan Pacey, head of the University of Sheffield’s department of oncology and metabolism and lead author, said: “We didn’t really expect that at the end of the study there would be any difference in the sperm from men who took the tablet versus those who took the placebo. When we decoded the results, I nearly fell off my chair. The improvement in morphology – the size and shape of the sperm, was dramatic”.

But don’t start mainlining Heinz ketchup packets just yet — men would have to consume almost 5 pounds of cooked tomatoes to absorb the dose of lycopene required to noticeably bolster their swimmers, per the BBC.

Plans now call for a larger trial, involving men who actually have fertility problems. And although the exact mechanism by which the LactoLycopene works has yet to be determined, it is believed that the lycopene’s powerful antioxidant effect is likely helping to protect the sperm against damage caused by oxidation – which is a frequent cause of male infertility.

According to the study, male infertility accounts for 40 to 50% of all conception woes. And the problem is getting worse: A 2017 paper found sperm counts in Western countries declined by more than 50% in less than 40 years.

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