Zinc

Zinc is the second most abundant trace element in the human body, totaling nearly 2 g.11 Found in more than 300 enzymes, zinc is a cofactor for multiple biologic processes including DNA, RNA, and protein synthesis. The mineral is used itself as a catalyst in 100 different enzymes.12 Male fertility is influenced by zinc in several different ways. Low zinc levels have a negative effect on serum testosterone concentration and seminal volume.13 Seminal plasma zinc concentration has been significantly positively correlated with sperm density, possibly contributing a positive effect on spermatogenesis.14,15 Other studies have shown the effects of zinc on sperm motility,16 emphasizing the mineral's role in flagella function. Infertile males have been

Table 15-1. Dosing Guide for Supplements That Enhance Male Fertility

Supplements

Doses

Zinca

45-60 mg per day

Selenium

200 mg per day

Glutathione

500 mg twice per day

Vitamin E

400-800 IU per day

Vitamin C

1,000-2,000 mg per day

Coenzyme Q10

100 mg per day

Arginine

3,000 mg per day

Carnitine

3,000 mg per day

Maca

1,500-3,000 mg per day, in 3 divided doses

Ginseng

200 mg standardized extract per day

Pygeum

200 mg per day

Supplements for increasing intracellular levels of glutathione

Vitamin C

500 mg per day

N-acetylcysteine

800 mg per day

aWhen using zinc, also add a copper supplement. For long-term (three months) zinc use, 2 mg of copper should be taken per day.

aWhen using zinc, also add a copper supplement. For long-term (three months) zinc use, 2 mg of copper should be taken per day.

shown to have lower levels of seminal plasma zinc that have been associated with reduced levels of zinc in their blood.17 Treatment with zinc can improve sperm motility parameters in men with decreased motility, suggesting a relatively simple treatment for several factors that influence fertility.18 In this study, men with asthenozoospermia (reduced sperm motility) were treated with 250 mg of zinc sulfate, twice per day, for three months. After six months of follow-up, the study subjects had significant improvements in sperm quality as measured by improved sperm counts, progressive motility, and fertilizing capacity; the men also had a reduced incidence of antisperm antibodies. Furthermore, the investigators hypothesized that zinc improves sperm parameters via a membrane-stabilizing effect as an antioxidant as well as affecting cellular and humoral immunity by decreasing antisperm antibody levels.

As a therapy, zinc has been suggested as a treatment for infertile male smokers by a study that investigated the mechanism of the zinc-cadmium relationship in the testes of laboratory animals.19 Smokers had increased seminal cadmium levels, decreased sperm counts and motility, and poor sperm morphology. Therapy with zinc improved sperm quality and increased seminal levels of interleukin-4; yet the therapy also decreased tumor necrosis factor-alpha and interferon-gamma. When a zinc-deficient diet was fed to the animals, this allowed cadmium from cigarette smoke to accumulate in their testicles in similar amounts to that seen in animals that were given cadmium supplements.19 The investigators of this study stated that, because of the ability of zinc to elevate Th-2 cytokines and down-regulate Th-1 cytokines, zinc may modulate the putative effects of cadmium on spermatogenesis.

In addition to the beneficial effects of zinc on fertility, the relationship of zinc in prostate health must also be mentioned. A correlation exists between low prostate (tissue and fluid) zinc levels and prostatic carcinoma. The concentration of zinc in the prostate is higher than that in any other tissue in the body. Prostatic zinc content decreases incrementally from normal prostate to benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) to cancer. Quantification of zinc levels in prostate biopsy samples has been proposed as an additional test in the differential diagnosing of BPH and cancer.20 Investigators have reported the sensitivity and specificity of this test to be 98%. Zinc has been shown to play an important part in male reproductive health. The relationship between zinc and both seminal and prostate health is interesting; the results of inadequate amounts of zinc appear to have rather detrimental effects on the male reproductive system and, thus, zinc supplements should be considered for every man.

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