Is there a connection between zinc and testosterone? Consider the case of sales manager Tom P. from Milwaukee, WI.
As his 50th birthday approached, Tom felt a mixture of pride and concern. He was in the best shape of his life thanks to regular sweat sessions at the gym and a plant-based diet. He was at the top of his game professionally.
Yet something wasn’t quite right. Tom was getting sick a lot. He didn’t have much of an appetite. He had a cut on his hand that was taking forever to heal.
What’s more, Tom and his wife weren’t intimate very often anymore. “We’d always had an active sex life,” he says, “but things really slowed down.” He knew he wasn’t getting any younger, but was something else going on?
Worried about his health, Tom saw a doctor. He learned that, in addition to experiencing the natural decline in testosterone that comes with aging, he had a zinc deficiency.
Tom was amazed. He had no idea zinc could help his body make testosterone — and improve his sexual health.
What Is Zinc?
Zinc is an essential trace mineral, meaning it can’t be synthesized naturally in your body. Zinc has several important functions. It is involved in gene expression, cell division, DNA replication, and cell growth. It also supports the immune system and helps wounds heal.
More than 300 enzymes and more than 1,000 transcription factors rely on zinc to function. In men, zinc plays a critical role in testosterone production and overall reproductive health.
Signs of Low Zinc Levels
The symptoms Tom was experiencing are typical of zinc deficiency. Some signs of low zinc levels are:
- Skin changes
- Loss of appetite
- Brain fog
- Delayed wound healing
- Immune system issues
Men with low zinc may also experience sexual symptoms related to hypogonadism, otherwise known as low testosterone or low T. In Tom’s case, his libido was diminished, which took a toll on his intimate relationship with his wife.
How Does Zinc Affect Male Sexual Health?
The male reproductive system relies on zinc to perform many jobs. Zinc not only affects the production of testosterone and other male sex hormones but also influences sex drive, prostate function, sperm count and quality, fertility, and testicular health.
Zinc & Testosterone
Zinc helps transform the steroid hormone testosterone into a biologically active form (5α-dihydrotestosterone or DHT). If you aren’t getting enough zinc, your testosterone levels — which already decrease with age — may be low.
Whatever the reason for “low T,” supplementing with zinc can promote healthy testosterone levels.[4, 6] If you’re looking for other testosterone boosters, check out our article on natural hacks to increase testosterone.
Zinc & Libido
In a man, the amount of testosterone in the body is a primary contributor to libido. Because zinc is involved in testosterone production, it may also influence sex drive.
Zinc supplementation may also improve libido and sexual performance. When zinc levels and hormone levels increase, frequency of intercourse increased in one group of men.
Zinc & Fertility
Zinc affects both sperm quantity and quality, which in turn affects male fertility. In men with fertility issues, supplementing with zinc can improve semen quality and sperm motility, which improves the chances of conception.[6, 9]
Preliminary results suggest that the lower the testosterone levels, the more effective zinc may be at promoting normal fertility and conception.
Zinc & Erectile Function
There are many factors, both physical and psychological, that can influence a man’s erectile function. One of these is low testosterone.
Whether a natural result of the aging process or a side effect of zinc deficiency, low T is associated with erectile dysfunction (ED).
Can zinc improve erectile function? There appears to be a relationship between zinc and normal erectile function.[8, 10]
Where to Get Zinc
Worried that low zinc levels may be affecting your health? You can increase your zinc intake by eating certain foods or taking a quality zinc supplement.
To add more zinc to your diet, try focusing on foods that are good sources of zinc. The following are great plant-based sources of zinc:
- Legumes like chickpeas, lentils, and beans
- Mushrooms, especially shiitake
- Green peas
- Seeds and nuts like hempseeds, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, and cashews
For healthy men, the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for zinc is 11 mg per day. It’s not always easy to get this amount of zinc from food, particularly if you eat a plant-based diet.
Many of the best plant sources of zinc — legumes, seeds, and nuts — contain phytic acid (phytate), a substance that inhibits zinc absorption. For this reason, vegetarians may have to take in 50 percent more zinc than non-vegetarians to ensure they’re getting enough.
No matter what kind of diet you follow, supplements can help you meet your RDA of zinc.
Points to Remember
Zinc is an essential trace mineral that supports immune function, wound healing, and more. In men, zinc also plays a critical role in sexual health, affecting testosterone levels, libido, fertility, and even erectile function.
Are you wondering if you may be suffering from a zinc deficiency? Signs of low zinc include skin changes, loss of appetite, brain fog, slow wound healing, and immune system issues.
Men may find their sexual health affected when zinc is low. Zinc deficiency is associated with low testosterone, which causes low libido, decreased sperm quality, and even erectile dysfunction.
Even if you‘re experiencing the natural decline in testosterone that comes with age, taking zinc can promote normal testosterone levels.
To make sure you’re getting enough zinc in your diet, focus on good food sources of zinc like legumes, mushrooms, seeds, and nuts. Because food alone can’t always provide enough zinc, consider a supplement.
Share your thoughts on zinc and sexual health in the comments!
- Berger A. What does zinc do?. BMJ. 2002;325(7372):1062.
- Prasad AS. Discovery of human zinc deficiency: its impact on human health and disease. Adv Nutr. 2013 Mar;4(2):176-190.
- Liu YL, et al. The effectiveness of zinc supplementation in men with isolated hypogonadotropic hypogonadism. Asian J Androl. 2017;19(3):280-285.
- Prasad AS, et al. Zinc status and serum testosterone levels of healthy adults. Nutrition. 1996 May;12(5):344-348.
- Fallah A, et al. Zinc is an essential element for male fertility: A review of Zn roles in men’s health, germination, sperm quality, and fertilization. J Reprod Infertil. 2018;19(2):69-81.
- Netter A, et al. Effect of zinc administration on plasma testosterone, dihydrotestosterone, and sperm count. Arch Androl. 1981 Aug;7(1):69-73.
- Dissanayake D, et al. Effects of zinc supplementation on sexual behavior of male rats. J Hum Reprod Sci. 2009;2(2):57-61.
- Antoniou LD. Reversal of uraemic impotence by zinc. Lancet. 1977 Oct 29;2(8044):895-898.
- Deng CH, et al. A clinical study of biological zinc for the treatment of male infertility with chronic prostatitis. Zhonghua Nan Ke Xue. 2005 Feb;11(2):127-129.
- Martínez-Jabaloyas JM, et al. Testosterone levels in men with erectile dysfunction. BJU Int. 2006 Jun;97(6):1278-1283.
- García-Casal MN, et al. Reference values of iron, iodine, zinc, selenium, copper, molybdenum, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, carotenoids and polyphenols for the Venezuelan population. Arch Latinoam Nutr. 2013 Dec;63(4):338-361.
- Saunders AV, et al. Zinc and vegetarian diets. Med J Aust 2013;199(4):S17-S21.
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