Zinc & Male Fertility
As important as zinc levels are to a woman’s fertility, it maybe even more vital when a man is trying for a baby.
Zinc is one of the most important trace minerals to date for male fertility.
Increasing zinc levels in men has been shown to boost sperm volume; improve structure and function of male sperm and is a good quality anti-oxidant.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A MAN HAS LOW LEVELS OF ZINC?
When low levels of zinc are found in the male reproductive system, a variety of disorders may present themselves. Zinc is necessary for the creation of the outer membrane and tail of the sperm. Without it, the sperm cannot mature to a stage that gives them the mobility and strength to make the long journey through the female for fertilisation to take place.
Low levels of zinc may also be a causal factor of defects in the sperm. This is called DNA fragmentation and for some reason has now become a common problem for many men. Zinc is chronically missing in the western diet. Zinc is one of those minerals that is absolutely essential for men. Yet research shows that few people these days get the right amount of zinc.
TOO MUCH PROCESSED FOODS
One of the reasons why zinc is in such short supply in the average diet due to our high consumption of processed foods, also poor soil quality, which fails to provide this important mineral. Heating and cooking can also reduce the zinc in foods by 50%. So it is important to eat foods high in zinc in their raw form.
The richest source of zinc is oysters, fish also contains lots of zinc but many people don't like eating fish. Some easy to find and eat sources are raw pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds. Tahini (made from sesame seeds) is a super source and is suitable for non-fish eaters or vegetarians.
TOXINS DEPLETE OUR BODIES OF IMPORTANT SUPPLIES OF ZINC
It is not just a lack of zinc-filled foods that is sapping our bodies of this all-important mineral. Exposure to stress, pollution and cigarette smoke can also deplete our bodies of important zinc supplies. Chemicals in cigarette smoke mimic the shape and size of the zinc molecule and are absorbed into the cells. These type of toxins create free radicals. Zinc is an anti-oxidant which combats free radicals and protects the cells from damage. Sperm is very delicate as it is prone to oxidation and therefore needs lots of anti-oxidants to prevent damage to it. Continued exposure to cigarette smoke can also damage the DNA in the sperm. This is difficult to treat as new sperm being manufactured is more susceptible to DNA damage.
FOOD SOURCES OF ZINC
It is important to eat enough foods high in zinc on a weekly basis. Make sure to try to eat as many zinc sources as you can raw - cooking has been shown to reduce zinc content by at least 50%. Here are the foods highest in zinc, listed in order of concentration:
- Lambs and calves liver
- Sesame seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Green peas
For many, it is difficult to get sufficient zinc in the diet.
A common protocol when trying to conceive is to take a supplement with at least 15mg -30mg of zinc in it per day. Zinc has 100's of other functions in the body so ensuring sufficient is circulating will help to support the immune system and provide an extra supply of anti-oxidant.
Gaye Godkin, Health Nutritionist, MPH Nutrition (Hons) DipNT cNLP