What are hormones?
Hormones are a class of signaling molecules that the body uses to regulate its normal functions. The part played in the regulation of the body's natural environment by hormones amounts to immeasurable values. At this very moment, there are numerous hormones circulating in our blood. These chemical messengers, usually, are synthesized in the body by specific tissues from where they get released into the blood. They travel in the blood to their site of action which might be intracellular (inside cells) or extracellular (on the cell surface membrane). In this article, we will target a peculiar relationship between minerals and hormones; specifically testosterone and zinc.
The hormone list is an exhaustive one and out of this article's scope. Some of the common hormones include insulin, growth hormone, thyroid hormones, estrogen, and the infamous testosterone. Testosterone is especially highlighted today as its increasingly known role. Typically, it is thought of as a sex hormone needed for having good sexual performance or masculinity. However, testosterone’s role is implicated in muscle building, strength, leanness, blood health, bone health, and even a happy mood.
So having low testosterone can put you in serious trouble. Unfortunately, many people around the world experience a deficiency of low testosterone. Fortunately, however, this could be reversed or corrected in most cases. An especially useful and holistic way of treating low testosterone in men is the use of dietary zinc. In this article, we are going to explore the role of zinc in increasing testosterone.
Functions of Testosterone in the Body
In this article, we will be discussing the sex hormone testosterone, found primarily in males and to a lesser extent in females. Known more commonly as a hormone associated with reproduction and sexual desires, testosterone is one of the body's important hormones governing many activities and processes.
Testosterone (T) in the body is kept within the normal range by the body’s homeostasis mechanisms involving negative feedback. In simple terms, homeostasis is the balance within the body. The T levels in the adult male vary from 300-1000 ng/dL. This amount peaks around the age of 20 and may start decreasing afterward, especially following the age of 50. Its effects on the body range from the muscular appearance of adult males to the development of male genitalia during embryogenesis. It also includes an increase in lean muscle mass in the body that occurs post-puberty as well as the coming out of acne on the face, acne being the most prominent sign of adolescence (1)(2). Furthermore, testosterone, when given to aging males whose testosterone levels are declining, is believed to cause an increase in bone density and strength as well as reduce cholesterol levels. (3)
Testosterone levels in the body are affected by many factors. Some of them include:
- Hormones - gonadotropic hormones, Follicle-stimulating hormone(FSH) and Luteinizing hormone(LH), and cortisol (the stress hormone)
- The genes encoding the proteins needed for the production and function of testosterone
- Zinc - a micronutrient needed in very small amounts by the body for normal processes,
- Sleep - especially Rapid eye movement(REM) sleep
- The health of the testes
- Age (as already discussed above)
The list can go on but today we will be particularly discussing the relation of zinc with testosterone levels.
Effect of Zinc on Testosterone
Zinc, as you might know, is a micronutrient that we need to include in our diet for a balanced and healthy life. Micronutrient intake in the diet can range from several micrograms (μg) to several milligrams(mg). For zinc, in particular, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for males is 11mg and for females, it is 8mg with an Upper Limit(UL) of 40 mg (4). Its serum levels may range from 0.66 μg/dL to 110 μg/dL.
The relation between zinc and testosterone levels can be made pretty clear by the fact that men have higher testosterone levels and serum zinc values than females. Moreover, there is a positive relationship between testosterone levels and serum zinc depicting that zinc is required for normal synthesis of the hormone(5).
A more clear connection can be seen in zinc deficiencies which may lead to significant changes in testosterone levels. Hypogonadism and resulting testosterone insufficiency can be corrected with the use of zinc supplements(6). Not only does zinc affect the hormone levels circulating in our blood, but it also increases sperm count as well as improves the conditions like infertility. In another study, it was found that men given zinc supplements were able to impregnate their partners(7).
Lastly, zinc levels in the blood are related to semen volume as well. Various research has shown our body’s zinc levels can modulate the quantity of seme as well. A study published in Oxford Academic Journal stated that reduced zinc intake can decrease the amount produced per ejaculate (8). This may lead to infertility or problems with sexual function.
Sources of Zinc
To overcome the many side effects of zinc and subsequent testosterone deficiency, it is advised to take the RDA (recommended daily diet) of all the micronutrients and not only zinc for a healthier lifestyle. To make it easier for you guys, the following is a list of sources that include zinc in it:
- Whole grains
- Dairy products
- Red meat
- Zinc supplements
Alas, it is quite evident that zinc has profound effects on testosterone levels in the body and an adequate intake of zinc will allow a normal and physically fit life. Testosterone being a hormone with multiple physiological functions is deemed essential for normal growth, development, and sustenance of the body. Adequate levels of zinc in the diet and zinc supplementation can increase serum testosterone levels and deliver astonishing results.