There are several benefits of zinc for fertility: for men it is an essential trace element to produce healthy sperm. For women, it is important both before and during pregnancy to both themselves and their developing baby.
Zinc (Zn) is an essential trace element for human nutrition. It is an integral part of many enzyme systems, including DNA polymerase complex and therefore critical for successful human reproduction. It is also a key catalytic agent.
A Zn deficiency can result in hormonal imbalances and impaired cell division. This has direct negative implications for male and female fertility.
Zinc and male fertility
Zinc is found in high levels within sperm, because it is necessary for the synthesis of the sperm membrane and tail. Indeed, studies have shown a correlation between low seminal plasma zinc concentrations and infertility in men1.
When the male reproductive system is deprived of Zn, an array of fertility disorders can develop. Without sufficient Zn, normal sperm maturation isn’t possible. As a consequence, sperm lacks the strength and motility to support fertilisation. Furthermore, testosterone levels can also be negatively affected as Zn influences hormone production.
The risk of miscarriage is elevated due to chromosomal defects resulting from insufficient Zn levels.
In one study, researchers investigated the relationship between seminal plasma Zn concentrations and sperm quality of fertile and infertile men2. Study participants included 107 males with unknown causes of infertility and 103 fertile men with pregnant wives at the time of the study. Atomic absorption spectroscopy was used to determine zinc concentration within seminal plasma. Sperm was also analysed for density, motility and viability.
The study found that
- Seminal plasma zinc levels were significantly lower in infertile males compared with fertile males.
- With the exception of semen volume, infertile males had significantly lower semen parameters compared with fertile males.
- There was a significant correlation between sperm density, viability, and motility with seminal plasma zinc concentrations.
Zinc and female fertility
Zinc plays a role in regulating female reproductive hormones, because the synthesis of both oestrogen and progesterone requires Zn. Without this trace element, the resulting hormonal imbalances may reduce fertility due to
- irregular menstruation
- impaired ovarian function. Since Zn is necessary for protein metabolism, egg maturation may be disrupted.
- suboptimal follicle fluid levels, which rely on Zn to transport the egg through the fallopian tubes.
Supporting healthy pregnancies with zinc
Zn is also important during pregnancy itself. A study investigating Zn concentrations in women during their first pregnancy confirmed a correlation between Zn and healthy pregnancies5. A total of 84 first-time mothers participated in the study which assessed various aspects of labour and the health of the infant.
The study found that
- Women who experienced complications such as atonic bleeding or abnormal labour were found to have significantly reduced serum Zn levels in early pregnancy.
- Women who gave birth to premature babies had significantly reduced serum Zn levels in early pregnancy.
- One baby was born with a congenital heart defect. The mother recorded the lowest serum Zn concentrations of all the other participants. There were no other abnormal findings.
- Women with normal deliveries and healthy babies had significantly higher serum Zn concentrations compared with the rest of the study participants.
This study suggests that a Zn deficiency may negatively impact labour and foetal development.
Seafood is one of the best sources of Zn. Other good sources include lamb, chicken, pork, beef, spinach, cashew nuts, pumpkin seeds, mushrooms and beans.
Zinc is a well-studied trace element. It has very important implications for male and female fertility. Without sufficient Zn concentrations, sperm and egg development is impaired. Low Zn levels are closely associated with infertility and complications during pregnancy.
Using Zinc for sperm motility and DNA protection
Zinc is a powerful male fertility enhancing nutrient, but it is also just one of several so called fertility-nutraceuticals, which improve male fertility in different, complimentary aspects. Clinical research studies have consistently shown that
We have therefore compared all of the top male fertility combination supplements in a transparent, side-by-side evaluation.
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- “Caldamone, M. et.al. (1979). Seminal zinc and male infertility. Urology, Volume 13, Issue 3, (pp. 280-281).” ↩
- Chia, S. et.al. (2000). Comparison of zinc concentrations in blood and seminal plasma and the various sperm parameters between fertile and infertile men. Journal of Andrology, Volume 21, Issue 1, (pp. 53-57).” ↩
- “Abbasi, A. et.al. (1980). Experimental zinc deficiency in man. Effects on testicular function. The Journal of Laboratory and Clinical Medicine, Volume 96, Issue 3, (pp.544-50).” ↩
- “Tikkiwal M. et.al. (1987). Effect of zinc administration on seminal zinc and fertility of oligospermic males. Indian Journal of Physiology Pharmacology, Volume 31, Issue 1, (pp. 30-34).” ↩
- “Jameson, S. (1976). Zinc and copper in pregnancy, correlations to fetal and maternal complications. Acta Medica Scandinavica, Volume 200, Issue S593, (pp. 5-20).” ↩
- “http://humupd.oxfordjournals.org/content/14/3/243.full” ↩
- “Imhof, Martin et al., “Improvement of sperm quality after micronutritient supplementation” ↩