Can a Zinc Deficiency Cause Erectile Dysfunction?

Can a Zinc Deficiency Cause Erectile Dysfunction?

The Link Between Zinc and Erectile Dysfunction, Explained

Even though it’s incredibly common, erectile dysfunction (ED) can wreak havoc on your self-confidence. According to the Mayo Clinic, over half of men between the ages of 40 and 70 experience some form of it — but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating to deal with.

One of the trickiest aspects of ED is that it can be caused by a variety of factors, from physical things such as high blood pressure and obesity to psychological factors such as depression or relationship problems. If you are struggling with ED, it’s crucial to speak to a medical professional to explore the reasons behind your symptoms and determine the best course of action.

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While self-diagnosing wouldn’t be advisable, you may want to ask your doctor about zinc deficiency. It turns out, there is a relationship between zinc — an essential trace mineral found in foods such as meat and fish — and men’s sexual health. Here’s what you need to know.

What Is Zinc and How Much Do You Need?

Zinc supports your immune system and metabolism. It’s a trace mineral, which means you only need small amounts of it — but it does play a vital role in cellular processes and health. The body doesn’t store extra zinc, so it must be obtained through food.

Shellfish like crab, oysters and lobster are rich sources of zinc, and so are beef, poultry and pork. Some legumes, nuts and seeds and whole grains also contain zinc, but they are also associated with poorer absorption of the nutrient.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends 11 mg a day for adult males. To give you an idea, a three-ounce serving of red meat provides about 5 mg of zinc. While the recommended amount can be obtained through food, there are people more at risk of suffering from deficiencies.

According to Oregon State University, in the U.S, about 12 percent of people and about 40 percent of the elderly are at risk for zinc deficiency due to inadequate dietary intake and reduced absorption of the nutrient.

If you’re a vegetarian or eat a mainly plant-based diet, you are more likely to miss out on zinc. Plus, as mentioned above, absorption also matters. For example, heavy alcohol use can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb zinc. A poor diet or high stress can also impact it.

“High intake of refined grains and sugars provides tons of ‘empty’ calories while binding to zinc and flushing it from the body. Chronic stress elevates cortisol levels, which increases zinc excretion through urine,” according to Dr. Naheed Ali, MD, PhD, physician, nutritionist, and senior medical and health writer at SweatBlock.

The Link Between Zinc and Erectile Dysfunction

“In men, zinc plays an essential role in promoting erectile function by ensuring optimal testosterone levels,” says Dr. James Hook, MD at Neurogan Health.

A 1996 study showed the relationship between zinc and testosterone. Young men ate a diet low in zinc. After 20 weeks on the diet, there was a nearly 75% decrease in their T levels. Another study found that zinc administration improved sexual performance in lead-exposed rats.

“The prostate gland has higher concentrations of zinc than any other tissue in the body. This mineral is involved in nearly every aspect of male fertility and sexual function,” adds Ali. “Deficiencies have been clearly linked to low sperm counts, poor sperm motility, impaired testosterone metabolism, and yes — even difficulties achieving or maintaining an erection.”

A zinc deficiency can therefore lead to erectile dysfunction. It doesn’t mean that it’s common, and it doesn’t mean that taking a zinc supplement without the help of a professional will cure your ED. But it certainly can be a factor to consider.

Signs You May Have a Zinc Deficiency

According to Hook, zinc deficiency isn’t all that prevalent. But if you’re suffering from symptoms such as hair loss, a tendency to catch colds and infections, delayed wound healing, and diarrhea, your body may lack this essential nutrient. You may also notice the effects of a zinc deficiency in your workouts, your sex drive, and even your nails.

“Some telltale signs a man may be running low on zinc include lack of sex drive, fatigue, poor recovery from exercise, frequent illness due to impaired immunity, loss of appetite, and struggles with male pattern baldness. White spots on the nails or a diminished sense of taste and smell can also signal deficiency,” says Ali.

If you recognize yourself in the symptoms above, talk to your doctor about your zinc levels. Even a mild deficiency can create issues down the road. The good news is, it’s a rather easy thing to address.

Again, you don’t want to start taking supplements without confirming that you have a deficiency — in fact, taking too much zinc can be dangerous — but if you do find out that you are deficient in zinc, the effects of supplementation can be game-changing.

At the very least, you can start by making sure that you’re getting enough zinc from your diet. Consuming lean meats and seafood can really help on that front, but if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, plant-based sources may not end up being enough for you.

While zinc isn’t necessarily the cause or the solution when it comes to ED, it’s a small nutrient that can have a big impact on your overall health. Don’t underestimate its role in your energy, vitality, and sexual well-being.

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