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Zinc is a mineral that is found in large concentrations in the prostate gland, suggesting it is important for prostate health. Zinc plays several roles in the body. It keeps the immune system strong, memory intact, cholesterol and blood sugar in line, and blood pressure and heartbeat regulated. Zinc is also involved in proper sexual development and reproduction. Many men take zinc for prostatitis treatment as well as for other prostate conditions.
Experts believe that having a zinc deficiency may increase incidence of infections and prostatitis. It may also make a man susceptible to prostate cancer because the mineral is also a key player in the body’s process of DNA-damage repair.
Zinc for Prostatitis Treatment—Does It Work?
Zinc is considered a Tier 3 supplement for prostatitis. That means that there is some clinical support that zinc is helpful for prostatitis. You’ll find that there is more research on zinc’s role in prostate cancer and enlarged prostate, also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Zinc can lower your risk of infection, and it is important for good immune function and cell repair.
Some preliminary studies suggest that taking zinc with antibiotics works better than taking antibiotics alone. Studies on zinc’s role in prostate health include the following:
- A Venezuelan study set out to determine zinc concentrations in the prostatic fluid of men with prostate problems (30 subjects) compared with healthy controls (10). The researchers found that zinc concentrations in men with prostatitis and prostate cancer—but not BPH—were lower than those in the controls. This finding led researchers to “consider the possibility of recommending zinc supplements as a coadjuvant therapy in patients with prostatitis,” and to use zinc levels as a diagnostic tool to distinguish BPH from prostate cancer. (Gomez 2007)
- Researchers at the University of Maryland (Baltimore) showed that exposing human prostate cancer and BPH cells to zinc induced cell suicide, and they identified the specific genes involved. Thus this study provided an extensive database on zinc-related prostate cancer research, and the results suggested zinc regulation of gene expression is cell-type specific; that is, the genes Fos, Akt1, Jak3, and PI3K showed themselves to be highly regulated by zinc. (Lin 2009)
- In a similar vein, an Oregon State University study evaluated the antiproliferative effects of zinc in both prostate cancer cells and BPH cells. Based on the knowledge that zinc concentrations in the prostate are “uniquely high” but significantly low in the presence of prostate cancer, the study’s authors set out to evaluate the antiproliferative effects of zinc in prostate cancer cells and BPH cells, with the goal of identifying possible mechanisms. Both prostate cancer and BPH cells were treated with zinc for 24 and 48 hours, and cell viability and growth were observed. The BPH cells were more sensitive than were prostate cancer cells to zinc’s antiproliferative effects. The authors concluded that the differential response to zinc in the prostate cancer and BPH cells “suggests that zinc may serve an important role in regulating cell growth and apoptosis in prostate cancer and hyperplasia cells.” (Yan 2010)
- In a University of Washington Cancer Prevention Program study, researchers saw a decreased risk of advanced prostate cancer with a greater intake of supplemental zinc (greater than 15 mg daily vs. no zinc supplement). No association between dietary zinc and prostate cancer risk was seen. (Gonzalez 2009)
Uses and Side Effects of Zinc
The RDA for zinc is 11 mg for adult males. Zinc citrate is more bioavailable and is the preferred form, at a dose of 15 mg daily. Even though zinc sulfate is the most frequently used zinc supplement (and also the most inexpensive), it is not easily absorbed. You can have too much of a good thing with zinc, and that is why more is not better. Avoid high doses over 40 mg per day. You don’t want to take supplements with significantly more zinc because there are some health risks associated with taking too much zinc, and it can lead to a copper deficiency.
Foods that contain a good level of zinc include oysters (extremely high levels), beef, poultry, seafood, fortified cereals, calf’s liver, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, crimini mushrooms, and low-fat yogurt.
References for Zinc for Prostatitis Treatment:
Gomez Y et al. Zinc levels in prostatic fluid of patients with prostate pathologies. Invest Clin 2007 Sep; 48(3): 287-94
Gonzalez A et al. Zinc intake from supplements and diet and prostate cancer. Nutr Cancer 2009; 61(2):206-215.
Lin SF et al. Profiling of zinc-altered gene expression in human prostate normal vs cancer cells: a time course study. J Nutr Biochem 2009 Dec; 20(12): 1000-12
Yan M et al. Differential response to zinc-induced apoptosis in benign prostate hyperplasia and prostate cancer cells. J Nutr Biochem 2010 Aug; 21(8): 687-94