Zinc and fertility, go together like bees and honey. Zinc is the most important mineral and antioxidant in pregnancy and preconception. It is required for foetal growth and development of muscles and bones. It reduces the risk of stretch marks, perineal tears, cracked nipples and it is necessary for immune function and brain formation.
82% of pregnant women world wide are deficient in zinc
A study found that 82% of pregnant women world wide are deficient in zinc. Low zinc levels in pregnancy have been linked to labour complications, low birth weight and premature delivery.
Zinc and Fertility in men
Zinc is very important nutrient for male fertility and deficiency has been linked to low testosterone and low sperm count and motility. Sperm contains up to 5 mg of zinc per discharge, so it’s very important for men to keep up their zinc levels. Studies have shown that zinc has been implicated in testicular development, sperm maturation, and testosterone synthesis.
Zinc and Fertility in women
In women zinc plays a role in sexual development, ovulation, and menstrual cycle. Concentrations of zinc and folate may have substantial effects on reproduction. Zinc is also required for production of healthy eggs in women. Deficiency during pregnancy can lead to miscarriages and retarded development due to abnormalities in the chromosomes (DNA).
Longevity and Beauty
It is an anti ageing mineral and is required for proper tissue repair and hormonal balance. When you are deficient in zinc, your body will go get some from your own reserves. It will start with tissues which can’t hold onto it very well. They are the skin and hair. The result is flaky skin, stretch marks and hair loss. It’s not surprising that many women develop stretch marks and report hair loss in pregnancy. Hair loss can be influenced by hormonal changes in the body but it is also a definite sign of zinc deficiency.
Zinc’s other roles include;
– Cofactor of hundreds of enzymes, including enzymes involved in food digestion and absorption.
– Proper DNA replication and function.
– Regulates the pH of the cells (if cells are too acidic they are more prone to disease)
– Essential for vitamin A and folic acid metabolism and transportation
– Required for activation of T-lymphocytes (white blood cells required for cell mediated immunity) and making the ‘natural killer cells’ more lethal then they already are.
– Controls release of insulin (hormone required for absorption of glucose, imbalance can lead to diabetes, insulin resistance, PCOS and infertility).
– Makes up one of the most potent antioxidants produced by the human body – Superoxide dismutase (SOD).
– Plays an important role in the health and flexibility of the connective tissue, skin and blood vessels.
Zinc absorption can be impaired if you are taking antacids and proton pump inhibitors. It requires acidic environment for optimal absorption and is therefore best taken away from food on an empty stomach.
As it competes for absorption with other nutrients don’t have it at the same time as your multivitamin. Zinc absorption is adversely affected by so many chemicals commonly found in natural food and it fights for absorption with so many other nutrients, not much of it ends up getting absorbed! Therefore zinc should be taken on an empty stomach last thing at night.
Deficiencies and Excesses
Vegans and vegetarians can be deficient in zinc as vegetables, fruits and grains are not optimal source of zinc. Phytic acid found in legumes will also block zinc and other mineral absorption. In addition smoking, drinking coffee, tea and alcohol increases your need for zinc.
Signs of zinc deficiency are loss of appetite, hair loss, white bands and spots on the nails, frequent colds and infections, slow healing wounds, stretch marks, dermatitis, diminished sense of smell and taste and premenstrual pimples and many more.
Excessive zinc consumption of 40mg/day may compete with copper and impair immune function.
How much to have?
Recommended daily intake of zinc is 8 mg/day for women, 11mg/day for men, 11 mg/day during pregnancy, 12 mg/day during lactation.
In men with sperm abnormalities 25-50 mg of zinc have been shown to increase sperm count and boost testosterone levels.
Where to get if from?
Lean meat, oysters, whole grains, nuts, pumpkin seeds, egg yolks, supplemental form – look for zinc acetate, the best tolerated and bioavailable form of zinc in a supplement. Stay clear from zinc oxide as it’s the least absorbent form of zinc!
Zinc and fertility are inseparable. Make sure to get enough zinc when trying to conceive. If in doubt if you have enough Zinc, see a qualified naturopath. Are you getting enough zinc? Do you have white spots on your nails? Share you thoughts!
Ebisch IM, et al. The importance of folate, zinc and antioxidants in the pathogenesis and prevention of subfertility. Hum Reprod Update. 2007 Mar-Apr;13(2):163-74.
Groper S, Smith J, Groff J. 4th Ed. 2005. “Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism” Thomson, USA
Keene, I. “Natural Fertility Prescription”, Australian Natural Therapeutics, Switzerland.
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