Can zinc improve male fertility?


Every year, researchers work to gain a more complete understanding of the complicated biological mechanisms behind male factor infertility. Male fertility is influenced by a wide range of factors, both environmental and genetic. Learning more about these underlying factors can open up new treatment possibilities for couples struggling with infertility. A study published earlier this year from may have done just that. In the study, University of Missouri professor Peter Sutovsky and doctoral student Karl Kerns designed an experiment to highlight the impact of zinc content on fertility. They found that zinc may play a bigger role in male fertility than previously thought. The research began as a search for alternatives to costly infertility treatments and assisted reproductive technologies. Could adding zinc to your diet be an inexpensive way to improve male factor infertility?

What is zinc?

Zinc is an essential trace element that plays an important role in your overall health, especially your immune system. It can be found in different cells throughout your body and is naturally present in some foods. Your body needs zinc for many aspects of cellular metabolism, including enzyme activity, protein and DNA synthesis, and wound healing. In addition, zinc is required for your senses of taste and smell.

Zinc is necessary for a healthy immune system. It is needed to activate T lymphocytes (T cells) in your body that regulate immune responses and fight off infected or cancerous cells. For this reason, a zinc deficiency can affect the function of your immune system and cause you to be more vulnerable to illness and disease.

How does zinc affect your sperm?

If you’re exploring treatment options for male factor infertility, you’re not alone. Sperm counts have steadily declined over the past four decades, according to a review of recent scientific studies. This means that an increasing number of couples are looking for ways to treat male factor infertility by improving sperm quality and quantity. When talking about the health of your sperm, there are three main characteristics that physicians look at:

  • Sperm count—The concentration of sperm in semen
  • Sperm motility—The percentage of living sperm that is actively moving forward
  • Sperm morphology—The shape of the sperm

Sperm count, motility, and morphology all play a role in male fertility. For sperm cells to make it through the female reproductive tract to fertilize an egg, they must survive a variety of environmental changes. Sperm that is healthy, active, and has a normal shape is more likely to make it through uterus and cervix and into the fallopian tubes.

How does zinc affect prostate health?

Your prostate plays a vital role in your chances of conceiving. This means that poor prostate health can have a negative effect on male fertility. The main function of your prostate gland is to produce prostate fluid, a component of semen, and help propel seminal fluid through the urethra during ejaculation.  The high zinc content found in prostate fluid significantly increases the zinc concentration of semen and serves to improve overall sperm motility. Prostate conditions, such as prostatitis—swelling and inflammation of the prostate gland—can negatively impact fertility. Adding zinc to your diet, through zinc-rich foods or zinc supplements, can decrease your risk of prostatitis, as well as other prostate conditions and prostate cancer.

How does zinc affect testosterone production?

Zinc not only plays a direct role in sperm health, it is also necessary for the production of testosterone. In fact, low testosterone, also called hypogonadism, can be a symptom of zinc deficiency. Testosterone, together with follicle-stimulating hormones, regulate sperm production in the testicles. If you aren’t producing enough testosterone, your body won’t produce as much sperm. You’ll also likely experience decreased energy and sex drive. Zinc supplements may be an effective way to increase your body’s testosterone production. This can, in turn, improve your fertility.

Can adding zinc to your diet help you conceive?

More and more, couples are realizing that improving the fertility of both partners is the best way to increase their chance of conceiving. As a male, knowing more about your sperm health is an important first step to understanding and treating any problems with your fertility. If you’re experiencing issues with sperm count, motility, or morphology, adding zinc to your diet may be an easy, inexpensive way to improve sperm production and quality, as well as your overall reproductive health.