Zinc may be the last entry on an alphabetical list of minerals, but it could be number one when you consider how important it is to men’s health. Clue number one: the prostate gland contains a high concentration of this mineral, and nature didn’t put it there for no reason. Clue number two: zinc has an impact on testosterone levels, and we all know how important that is! We have several more benefits of zinc for men’s health to explore, but before we get to them, it’s worth checking out some basics about zinc.
What Is Zinc?
Zinc is an essential trace mineral that is necessary for all cells. Prostate cells, however, accumulate more zinc than cells anywhere else in the body. In addition to the prostate, zinc is found in high concentrations in bone, eyes, kidney, liver, muscles, and pancreas.
Zinc is an active participant in numerous functions and reactions in the body, including immune system function, synthesis of DNA and protein, cell metabolism, wound healing, cell division, proper sense of smell and taste, and proper growth. It also helps stimulate about 100 different enzymes.
Despite its wide-reaching activities, the body needs only a very small amount of zinc; 11 mg daily for men is the Recommended Dietary Allowance. Since the body has no special storage system for zinc, it’s necessary to replenish the body daily.
Low levels of zinc or zinc deficiency is associated with greater susceptibility to illness and disease and loss of appetite. Severe cases are characterized by diarrhea, impotence, eye and skin lesions, hair loss, weight loss, taste abnormalities, mental fogginess, delayed wound healing, and hypogonadism. Zinc levels are not easy to determine with current laboratory testing techniques and more research is needed, so it’s wise to be aware of your daily zinc intake and deficiency symptoms.
Which Foods Provide Zinc?
The one food most associated with zinc is the oyster, which serves up nearly 500 percent of the RDA per 3 ounce serving. Less impressive but still considered excellent to very good and good sources include crab, fortified cereals, cashews, peanuts, chick peas, kidney beans, baked beans, toasted wheat germ, and chicken.
What’s the Best Zinc Supplement?
If you choose enough of the right zinc-rich foods, you probably won’t need to worry about taking a zinc supplement. However, if you decide you could benefit from one, the available types are zinc acetate, zinc chelate, zinc gluconate, zinc picolinate, and zinc sulfate. Zinc chelate is a form of zinc that allows for easy absorption.
Benefits of Zinc for Men’s Health
Enough of the basics. Now let’s zero in on the benefits of zinc for men’s health.
It promotes better brain health. High concentrations of zinc are found in the hippocampus, which is a center for memory and learning in the brain. A team of scientists from MIT and Duke University studied neurons in this area of the brain and discovered evidence of how zinc is critical for a process called long-term potentiation, which is important for memory and learning.
A deficiency of zinc, which is a potent antioxidant, seems to increase the ability of bacteria, viruses, toxins, and other harmful agents to cross the blood-brain barrier. Sufficient zinc, however, is believed to provide protection against such an invasion, according to research from the Linus Pauling Institute. Healthy zinc levels also may help protect against serious brain diseases such as schizophrenia, Pick’s disease, Wilson’s disease, and epileptic seizures, as well as alcoholism.
Zinc helps with maintaining a healthy heart. An Australian team reviewed the benefits of zinc for cardiovascular health, pointing out that the mineral seems to protect against coronary artery disease and cardiomyopathy as well as guard against damage to the myocardium (heart muscle). Zinc’s anti-inflammatory properties, along with its antioxidant characteristics, are beneficial for reducing risk factors associated with atherosclerosis. In a study of 40 healthy older adults, supplementation with 45 mg of zinc gluconate daily for six months had a positive impact on factors associated with atherosclerosis when compared with participants who received a placebo.
It supports and promotes natural testosterone levels. Zinc supplementation can boost both total and free testosterone levels. In a study of elite wrestlers, the men took 3 mg/kg/day of zinc sulfate for four weeks along with their normal diet. Levels of total and free testosterone were significantly higher after rest and exhausting exercise following zinc supplementation than they were before supplementation. The study results suggested that zinc supplementation prevented inhibition of testosterone concentrations.
Zinc supplementation benefits nonathletes as well. In a study of normal men ranging in age from 20 to 80 years, testosterone concentrations were measured before and during marginal dietary zinc deficiency and before and after three to six months of zinc gluconate supplementation. The young men who had restricted zinc showed a significant decline in testosterone concentration after 20 weeks, while zinc supplementation taken by marginally zinc-deficient elderly men for six months resulted in an increase in testosterone. The authors concluded that zinc has an important role in affecting testosterone levels in normal men.
It can help with your sexual health and libido. The role of zinc in sexual health and libido is partly related to the impact of the mineral on testosterone. That is, the boost in T levels associated with zinc supplementation can lead to enhanced sexual health and sex drive. If you are experiencing erectile dysfunction that is associated with low testosterone, then zinc supplementation may contribute to resolving your erectile challenges.
In a 2010 review of studies concerning sexual health and function among individuals with kidney disease, which is a common occurrence among this population, reviewers looked at the impact of taking zinc supplements. They reported that use of zinc supplements can not only increase testosterone levels but also improve the potency and frequency of sexual intercourse.
It promotes more endurance and energy.You want to be sure you get enough zinc for those days at the gym, on the road, or in the field when you need high energy and endurance. In an American Journal of Clinical Nutrition report, experts explained that zinc facilitates the conversion of energy in food into energy for work and physical function to enhance your physical performance. Insufficient zinc is associated with reductions in endurance, muscle strength, and cardiorespiratory function.
A number of studies of zinc and its impact on energy, endurance, and athletic performance reveal an intimate relationship. One study, for example, showed that supplementing with zinc may be helpful in improving performance that requires use of fast-twitch muscle fibers. Another study looked at the impact of zinc supplementation on elite athletes (wrestlers). It showed that a four-week program of zinc sulfate supplementation (3 mg/kg/day) may benefit endurance and performance.
Supplementation with zinc improved blood values (red blood cell count, hemoglobin, white blood cell count) in young adult athletes in training, which can translate into improved energy. A total of 30 participants were assigned to take either daily doses of zinc at 3 mg/kg/day and no exercise, wrestling and exercise up to 2 hours daily for five days per week without zinc supplementation, or a combination of exercise and zinc. At the end of four weeks, the blood factors were significantly higher among the participants who took the zinc supplement, suggesting that the mineral has a positive impact on blood parameters and energy.
It can help with your prostate health. There’s increasing evidence that zinc plays an integral role in maintaining prostate health. In fact, the presence of zinc appears to help suppress prostate tumor growth.
For example, experts have shown that zinc can help prevent malignancy by creating an environment that is toxic to prostate cancer cells. One study showed that men who took more than 15 mg of zinc had a 66 percent reduction in their risk of developing advanced prostate cancer. Another study demonstrated that higher intake of zinc in the diet was associated with a 36 percent reduced risk of dying from prostate cancer, and that amount of protection was 76 percent among men who had localized prostate tumors. Generally, a recent report stated that “Men over 40 should consider zinc supplementation for a variety of reasons including maintaining healthy prostate tissue zinc levels.”
Don’t let the fact that zinc is usually at the bottom of the list cause you to neglect this essential mineral. Evaluate your diet and supplement regimen for zinc intake and consider taking an all-natural men’s supplement that contains zinc that can help support and promote better men’s health.