Does Zinc Increase Testosterone?


Along with dropping naturally as we age, low testosterone levels can result from various medical conditions or certain medications and treatments. One of the most common and easy to resolve causes is nutritional deficiencies, especially low levels of zinc. Zinc is an essential dietary mineral that supports our immune system as well as optimal testosterone production.

Zinc deficiency is prevalent worldwide, with at least 12% of the US population being affected, and as high as 40% of the elderly [1]. The chance of deficiency is even higher for vegetarians, vegans, heavy alcohol drinkers, and anyone who is underweight or has gastrointestinal disorders. Studies have long since proven that zinc deficiency causes a significant decrease in testosterone concentration and that supplementation in deficient men will raise it back to healthy levels [2]. Supplementation isn’t always necessary though as extra zinc will not raise your testosterone levels if you are already intaking enough of the mineral [3]. Still, as a result it's often included in the better testosterone boosting supplements as it doesn't take up much capsule space and would work to support testosterone production for a lot of men. 

How Much Zinc Per Day For a Man

Our bodies can’t store zinc, so you need to take it in every day. For adult males, the recommended daily intake should be around 11 milligrams [4] or closer to 15mg on high intensity workout days. One study found that 30mg could be safely taken each day and that the men involved all showed an increase in free testosterone levels [5].

It is also possible to intake too much zinc however, and toxicity can occur if over 40mg is taken daily for more than a few months. Zinc toxicity can cause symptoms including headaches, abdominal cramps, sickness, diarrhoea, and poor appetite. Excessively high doses of more than 150mg daily over a long period of time can have even more detrimental effects, such as compromised immunity, low copper and magnesium levels, low ‘good’ cholesterol levels, muscle spasms, and anemia.

Natural Sources of Zinc

The human body does not produce zinc on its own, so we must ingest it. It occurs naturally in the earth so can be found in several vegetables, meats and seafood which makes maintaining adequate levels relatively easy if you have a balanced diet. The following foods are notably high in zinc:

  • Meat, particularly red meats such as beef
  • Shellfish, especially oysters and crab
  • Legumes such as lentils, beans, and chickpeas
  • Hemp, pumpkin, and sesame seeds
  • Nuts, particularly cashews
  • Dairy products like cheese and yogurt

Moderate amounts of zinc are also found in foods such as tofu, eggs, whole grains like oats and rice, fortified cereal and bread, avocado, potatoes, mushrooms, spinach, green beans, asparagus, blackberries, and dark chocolate.

Zinc is found in a wide range of health supplements too such as multivitamins, or on its own in the form of zinc gluconate, zinc picolinate, zinc acetate, zinc orotate, or zinc citrate. Zinc gluconate and zinc picolinate are chelated types of zinc that are considered the most bioavailable and therefore the most accessible for the human body [6].

Other Benefits of Zinc For Men

Zinc is essential for everybody, but it is especially important for men due to deficiency reducing testosterone levels. It also comes with a whole host of other benefits though, including:

  • Better immune response and faster healing
  • Improves prostate health
  • Reduces erectile dysfunction
  • Better protein synthesis
  • Antioxidant properties for reduced oxidative stress
  • Increases libido
  • Supports bone health
  • Improves mental health
  • Healthier skin and stronger hair
  • Delays age-related vision loss
  • Boosts cognitive function and memory
  • Improves sleep quality

Zinc Combined With Other Supplements

Combining a zinc supplement with another testosterone boosting supplement is a sure-fire way to see better results. Vitamin D or magnesium are the most recommended for this, with boron or selenium also being valuable choices.

First up is vitamin D, which is essential for male sexual function. Our bodies produce this upon exposure to sunlight, but many of us don’t get enough sun exposure to produce adequate amounts, and just like with zinc, vitamin D deficiency will lower testosterone levels. Most guidelines recommend doses between 400-2000IU per day to prevent deficiency [7]. Studies have proven that even short-term supplementation has a substantial impact on testosterone levels [8]. Vitamin D also improves zinc absorption and zinc is needed for vitamin D to correctly carry out some of its key functions, so these two supplements really do complement each other.

The next recommended combination is zinc and magnesium, as magnesium is known to increase testosterone levels in men, particularly in active individuals [9]. ZMA, short for zinc magnesium aspartate, is a popular supplement in the fitness community as it is designed to optimise testosterone and improve workout recovery. ZMA also contains vitamin B6 though, and it is thought that this combination can cause unusual dreams, so many experts would recommend taking only zinc and magnesium together instead. Like the previous vitamin D combination, these minerals also work to each other’s advantage. As long as you’re not taking incredibly high doses of zinc, which can actually reduce magnesium absorption, they work well together as magnesium helps your body to regulate zinc levels and many of their general benefits overlap.

Finally, we have the boron and selenium options as both have been shown to significantly raise testosterone levels. Zinc and boron or selenium don’t directly impact each other like our other recommendations, but they are still excellent pairings due to their complimentary benefits. A version of the ZMA supplement mentioned above can also be found that contains added boron. On the other hand, it’s also worth noting that there are a couple of combinations that cause a negative interaction. High doses of calcium or copper should not be taken at the same time as zinc as this can dramatically reduce zinc absorption.

References

  1. https://today.oregonstate.edu/archives/2009/sep/zinc-deficiencies-global-concern
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8875519/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17882141/
  4. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional/
  5. https://www.asep.org/asep/asep/BrillaV2.PDF
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3630857/
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28216084/
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32375348/
  9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20352370/
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