Zinc will always appear last on an alphabetical listing of nutrients, but for men, it should be listed as number one for its important role in prostate health and sexual functioning. Zinc’s special role in men’s sexual health revolves around the hormone testosterone and the prostate gland. Before diving into how zinc can keep a man’s prostate healthy and his sex life alive, let’s explore what zinc is first.
What is zinc?
Zinc is found in small quantities in the human body. This essential trace mineral is found naturally in some foods, added to others, and is available as a dietary supplement. For being a trace mineral, zinc has a big job with many important roles in the human body. From working with proteins in every organ and tissue, helping wounds heal, necessary for sperm production, taste perception, normal metabolic rate, nerve and brain functioning, bone growth, and normal development in children, among other roles it has – zinc does it all.
But for men, zinc plays a special role just for them.
Zinc and testosterone
For normal development and function of the male sex organs, zinc is necessary. For example, men with a zinc deficiency have been shown to have less developed testes and reduced sperm count. In addition, two key hormones found in men, testosterone, and prolactin, require zinc for their production, in addition to zinc’s role in creating the main component of prostatic fluid of the prostate.
The role of zinc in a man’s sexual health is partly related to the impact this mineral has on testosterone. When men have sufficient zinc levels, testosterone levels should be adequate to enhance sexual health and improve sex drive. Conversely, men experiencing erectile dysfunction associated with low testosterone may have a zinc deficiency contributing to erectile challenges.
Men with kidney disease may want to consider taking a zinc supplement. A 2010 review of studies focusing on sexual health and functioning among men with kidney disease looked at the influence of zinc supplements. It was found that using zinc supplements can increase testosterone levels and improve the potency and frequency of sexual intercourse.
Zinc and the prostate gland
Zinc and the prostate gland are intertwined – the highest concentrations of zinc are found in the soft tissue of the prostate, along with high amounts of zinc found in prostatic fluid. Zinc concentrations accumulate 10 to 15 times higher in the prostate than in any other body tissue.
Also interesting is that zinc concentrations are significantly lower in malignant or cancerous Prostate tissues (about 10-25%) than what’s normally found in a healthy nonmalignant prostate.
High zinc concentrations are necessary for keeping the prostate healthy by acting as a powerful tumor suppressor. The high levels of zinc appear to prevent cancer cell migration and invasion into other tissues and could also be the missing link for why it could help keep the prostate healthy.
The daily zinc requirement for men age 19 and older is 11 milligrams. Most men do meet this requirement, but as they age, their dietary habits can change, and their intake may not be optimal. Epidemiological studies have shown that high levels of zinc found in men, whether from food sources or a supplement, are better protected from advanced prostate cancer. A case-control study also found that men, who took zinc supplements, had lower risks of prostate cancer. However, other studies have found that men using zinc supplements long-term or at a high dosage had an association with an increased risk of prostate cancer.
A study conducted in Sweden, a country with high prostate mortality rates of 22% of cancer deaths in men, found that men diagnosed with a localized tumor or with early-stage prostate cancer and who consumed foods rich in zinc were 76% less likely to die of prostate cancer than men with a lower intake of zinc. However, this study only focused on the effect of dietary or food sources of zinc and not at zinc supplements. Some dietary sources of zinc include the following:
- 3 oz. Beef steak – 4.9 mg
- 3 oz. of Oysters – 67 mg
- 3 oz. or Shrimp – 1.5 mg
- 3 oz. Pork chop – 2.8 mg
- 1 cup of Yogurt – 2.2 mg
- ¾ cup enriched cereal –15 mg
- ½ cup of Red kidney beans – 2 mg
It is important to note that zinc from meat sources is absorbed better than from vegetarian sources. Phytic acid, a substance found in legumes and whole grains, can inhibit zinc bioavailability or absorption.
Always consult with your doctor for their recommendation on whether to supplement with zinc or not. The 2010 Swedish cohort study suggested their results were insufficient to recommend zinc supplements. In the meantime, for men to have the best outcome, they should consider consuming rich food sources of zinc, particularly from animal sources.
Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy. Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncology and prostate cancer 911.