When it comes to nutrition, many people pay more attention to the supplements at the beginning of the alphabet and less to those further down.
We all know that vitamin A, vitamin B, calcium, and vitamin D are important, and most have a good understanding of why, but things get a little foggy when we reach manganese and selenium.
Once you work your way through the alphabet to zinc, your knowledge may be slim.
For starters, zinc is an essential nutrient, but our bodies cannot make or store it, so we need to ensure we get enough through our diets; however, if our diets alone don't provide the recommended daily intake, we may need to add zinc to our supplement plans.
After iron, zinc is the highest amount of trace mineral in your body, and if you're not consistently getting enough in your day-to-day lives, it can be detrimental to your overall health.
While your body only needs trace amounts, with adult men needing 11mg per day and women needing 8mg, its role in your body is crucial.
This element plays a critical role in immune function, the development of DNA and proteins, wound healing, and cell division.
Zinc is also essential for your growth and development, influencing your sense of taste and smell as you age, and can possibly slow age-related macular degeneration.
However, studies into this are still ongoing, and the results are promising.
In this post, we'll cover what zinc is, but more importantly, how it can help your testosterone levels as well as how you can get enough zinc in your diet, and more.
What Is Zinc?
As mentioned, zinc is a nutrient found throughout your body that helps your immune system and metabolism function, but it is also crucial to healing as well as your major senses, such as taste and smell.
When you keep a varied diet, your body usually gets enough zinc, but sometimes people need to add a supplement to get enough zinc or help ease other problems in their bodies, such as sexual health, chronic disease, or even diarrhea.
Zinc And Testosterone
Even moderate zinc deficiency is associated with testosterone deficiency in men, also known as hypogonadism, which is a dysfunction of the testes which can lead to a failure to produce sperm, testosterone, or sometimes both.
Now we probably don't need to tell you, but when you have low testosterone levels, it could result in adverse side effects like decreased strength, increased body fat levels, lowered sex drive, reduced muscle mass, and erectile dysfunction.
Low levels of zinc have been shown to also interfere with spermatogenesis, which is the production of sperm. Furthermore, a zinc deficiency can throw off your serum testosterone levels which can lead to sperm abnormalities.
You may be thinking, but how does zinc increase testosterone?
In order to understand how much zinc could affect testosterone levels, researchers limited the dietary intake of zinc in young men for twenty weeks, and over the course of the study, the participant's testosterone levels plummeted from the average, which is 39.9 nmol/L, or nanomoles per liter, to a measly 10.6 nmol/L.
Additionally, the same researchers also wanted to observe the effects in those with minor zinc deficiencies and held a six-month study with older men taking daily supplements.
Following the twenty-four-week study, the participants' serum testosterone levels had significantly improved, with the group average almost doubling from a low 8.3 nmol/L to 16.0 nmol/L.
Zinc And Thyroid Hormones
As zinc is involved with various bodily processes, it is unsurprising that if you have a low level of zinc in your system, it can lead to these processes breaking down, shutting down, or downregulation hormone production.
Zinc is fundamental for your brain and the production of thyroid hormones, which is why when men don't get enough zinc, your body fails to secrete thyroid hormones, and this can negatively impact your testosterone production.
Unfortunately, due to how vital the thyroid function is, it also means anything that negatively impacts thyroid hormones may also lead to lower testosterone levels.
Zinc And Erectile Dysfunction
We've mentioned that zinc is vital to the production of testosterone, but it also helps produce important hormones for sex, such as prolactin, and enables the creation of the prostatic fluid, which contains components that make semen an ideal substance for sperm cells to live in.
However, many people don't realize that zinc is also crucial for the function and development of the male sex organs.
Men with a long-term zinc deficiency have been proven to have reduced sperm count and less developed testes.
Zinc supplementation has been shown to help relieve the symptoms of erectile dysfunction, but studies on rats receiving a moderate daily oral dose of zinc sulfate have demonstrated that zinc have an effect on a man's sexual competence.
The results of this study found that the rats had an increase in time before ejaculation and improved penile thrusting.
Additional Benefits Of Zinc
There are plenty of additional benefits of zinc, but the most important is the other way it helps to increase your testosterone levels; zinc assists in fighting inflammation.
When you experience inflammation, it is typically due to oxidative stress, which develops due to a disproportion between antioxidants and cell-damaging free radicals.
While inflammation has been linked to multiple chronic diseases, it can also cause a fall in testosterone levels as it damages the Leydig cells, which are essential for producing testosterone alongside the luteinizing hormone.
Zinc's vital functions can lessen oxidative stress by acting as though it is an antioxidant to help your body rebalance the two sides.
When you have the right levels of zinc in your body, the mineral also supports the immune system and boosts infection-fighting T-cells.
Additionally, as we mentioned previously, getting enough zinc in your diet or through supplements is crucial for wound healing and is the reason why zinc is often used alongside vitamin C in hospitals as a way to speed up the healing process of ulcers.
We also touched on how zinc could help slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration in our intro, and this is due to the same inflammation-easing effects that assist with testosterone production.
How To Get Enough Zinc
For most people, getting their recommended daily allowance will be easy to achieve through food sources.
You might have heard that oysters are an aphrodisiac, but they're also one of the best food sources of zinc alongside beef; however, this does mean that vegetarians or vegans could find it difficult to get enough zinc without needing to include supplements in their routine.
Although there are other sources of zinc, such as dairy, nuts, dark chocolate, and seeds, which means those with special dietary requirements can still get this mineral in their everyday diet, although they may still need to take supplements to get enough.
You can also find zinc in whole grains and legumes, although this source of zinc carries an additional compound called a phytate that blocks zinc absorption; this means you would need to soak them before consumption to reduce the phytate in order to allow for zinc absorption.
Additionally, you may find this essential mineral in certain breakfast cereals.
While you can find zinc in many foods, there are also many people who will need to take a zinc supplement, especially those suffering from chronic conditions.
People with liver disease, or those with gastrointestinal issues like Crohn's or celiacs, may find their bodies have difficulty absorbing zinc from their diets and often need to supplement with high-dose to combat this issue.
For most people, an additional multivitamin in their daily routine will meet their needs, but you should also seek advice from a medical professional when taking zinc, as too much can be hazardous to your health and may cause magnesium deficiency.
Around 12% of the population in the United States is thought to suffer from a zinc deficiency.
When it comes to zinc deficiencies, there is a range of symptoms with varying degrees of severity, but common signs include slow-healing wounds, poor appetite, loss of energy, psoriasis, acne, respiratory infections, and dermatitis.
Severe cases of zinc deficiencies are typically considered rare and are often caused by illnesses or genetic disorders but can take a severe toll on your overall health.
However, moderate cases are quite common and often associated with a poor or imbalanced diet, and while these cases are not normally life-threatening for healthy adults, they can significantly diminish the development of young children.
Aside from young children, people who are typically at the highest risk of zinc deficiency are those over 65 and pregnant women.
As we mentioned earlier, too much zinc can be detrimental to your health, and the National Institutes of Health recommends that adults should not consume more than 40mg of zinc daily in order to avoid possible side effects.
Mild zinc toxicity may involve common symptoms like gut problems, including nausea, diarrhoea, and cramping.
However, more severe cases could also cause drowsiness, headaches, loss of muscle coordination, and fever, with long-term zinc toxicity dramatically weakening the immune system and causing anemia.